Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born July 15th 1606 in Leiden during The Dutch Golden Age (1585-1702) where the Dutch Republic was the most prosperous nation in Europe. It led the way in trade, science and the arts. Rembrandt was this periods most dominant figure.
There isn’t much we really know about Rembrandt’s early childhood, but we can assume he was a very bright individual. Unlike his siblings, he was spared the life of learning a trade and was instead enrolled in academic studies at grammar school and later university. However, early on at university Rembrandt decided that academic life wasn’t for him and he left to become a painter’s apprentice. He used these intervening years as an apprentice to acquire the necessary skills that would help him become one of Leiden’s most celebrated artists. Around this time he also set up his own studio in Leiden. By his early 20’s, Rembrandt had built himself a strong reputation in Leiden which eventually led him to acquire his first important commissions.
In 1631, he moved to Amsterdam where his career really took off. Interestingly, his paintings would offer art lovers today an insight into the Amsterdam of his day. He also painted portraits for wealthy families and organisations, as well as scenes from history, mythology and the bible. Many of these paintings or portraits were known as ‘impasto’, owing to the fact that they were created on thick, lumpy paint. His technique also made dramatic use of light and shade. One of his finest examples of effective use of light and shade is The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq, better known as ‘The Night Watch’. It is also famous for showing Cocq’s company of civil guard about to march into action, rather than in a formal posed state (See above).
While his career flourished, his private life was clouded by tragedy. He would lose his wife, his son and later in life his lover. Bankruptcy would almost also cripple him, but despite his troubles his later years would be a prolific period artistically. His life work included hundreds of paintings and prints, and interestingly some 90 self portraits, leaving us a record of how he looked throughout his illustrious life, until his death in 1669.
Closes-up of Rembrandts 1659 Self Portrait.