Perhaps one of the most admired yet obscure artists in history is Rembrandt van Rijn. His inauspicious life significantly influenced his unique art style that was slightly controversial to the standard, classic baroque art of his time in the early to mid 1600?s.
Rembrandt was born to a destitute family on July 15, 1606, in Leiden, Netherlands. His future was limited in oppurtunities due to his lack of money to finance anything that might be available. His parents took great care in his education and sent him to a creditable school called The Latin School. At the age of fourteen Rembrandt was enrolled at the famous Leiden University. The program there did not satisfy him and so he resigned from further education to pursue a career in art(Encarta). Thus began his imfamous art career.
In the beginning of his life as an artist, he took lessons from a local master named Jacob van Swanenburch. Swanenburch taught Rembrandt as much as possible with the available local resources. (Spence, Still, Rembrandt was not content with his education and wanted bigger and better things. Accordingly, he moved to Amsterdam to take lessons from Pieter Lasstman, a man famous for his historical paintings. After six months of mastering everything he had been taught, Rembrandt returned to Leiden to further develop his techniques.
In Leiden, at the age of twenty-two, Rembrandt decided to apply his education and to teach his first pupils. Although this was financially supportive, it was not what he most desired. After educating many, he realized his greatest love was not teaching, but painting/ Consequently, he decided to return to Amsterdam in 1631 for a better life and a new beginning with his own art.
In Amsterdam he fell in love and married a woman named Saskia van Uylenburgh, who was the cousin of a successful art dealer. With this inclusion to a circle of art commerce, came much success. This enhanced his business and brought him in contact with wealthy patrons who eagerly commissioned his portraits. Rembrandt?s business was flourishing at this time and as a result he produced many famous paintings such as The Noble Slav. Rembrandt?s paintings were in demand especially the mythological and religious works. These new paintings from Rembrandt would mark the beginning of one of three phases of Rembrdandt?s prosperous and successful art career.
In his early stage as an artist, Rembrandt was notably influenced by his teacher, Pieter Lastman. His choice of dramatic subjects as opposed to lackluster subjects was very typical of his art of that time. In addition, the subjects in his paintings were crowded in their compositional arrangements. Additionally, there was a great emphasis on the contrast of light and dark, which seemed to be a very prevalent characteristic of baroque art. The costumes of his subjects were very exotic and extraordinary, differentiating him from typical Dutch artists. In his primitive and experimental portraits, Rembrandt tended to have a preoccupation with the sitters? features and also with details of clothing and the features of the furniture in the background and foreground. In his 1634 painting of his wife, Saskia, in Saskia as Flora, he, as he so typically did, had Saskia representing another being. The detail of her face demonstrated his preoccupation for details on the faces of his subjects. Every line was drawn to portray specific emotions of Saskia. In his most plentiful and most famous paintings which depicted biblical subjects, drama was the main emphasis. Along with baroque taste in the other traditional Dutch paintings of the time, his paintings expressed deep emotion and powerful spiritual sensations. In his numerous early paintings of self -portraits, he revealed his tremendous psychological problem in his penetrating self-analysis that was painted as to represent various emotions. His focus and concentration of his early self- portraits were solely on facial details. Eventhough his motivation was not to hide his homely features, much chiaroscuro was shown casting deep shadows that covered his face.
At home, sometime between 1635 and 1641, Saskia gave birth to four children. Only one survived named Titus. As business increased and flourished, Rembrandt?s family life worsened. In 1642 Rembrandt?s wife died. This did not help build morale for him, and his constant-self analysis continued. In spite of this, his once housekeeper, Hendrickje Stuffles, eventually became his common-law wife and was the model of many of his pictures. As his ability to paint progressed he entered which most historians call his ?middle?? period of art.
In Rembrandt?s new life with his new wife, whom he adored, his art changed. It became much quieter because of the strong influence of classicism that lessened the up-spirit of the pieces. The intense drama of his previous works increased considerably as the interplay between characters increased, and scenes were not frozen but more open as if the picture was progressing and dialogue was being conducted. Contrary to his early paintings, the scene were not meant to represent one specific moment in time, as in the Supper at Emmaus, where the painting portrayed a period of time as opposed to a frozen instant. Light was used to convey the scene, cast shadows on gloomy subjects and represent the intense dramatic effects on the characters, setting the mood of the painting. In his portraits, such as Night Watch, painted in 1642, the colors and the use of colors were incredibly rich and complex, and achieved a powerful dramatic affect with its unusual use of dark, rich colors. (Encyclopedia Britannica.) At this new heigth in his art performance, a dramatic chain reaction of downfalls occured.
Despite Rembrandt?s financial success as an artist, teacher, and art dealer, his fondness for pretentious living forced him to declare bankruptcy in 1656. As a remedy to his bankruptcy, he auctioned off everything he owned including his art and house. He ended up with disappointing results and no solution to his debt problems. On the other hand, he started to receive international acclaim for his excellent work. It appeared that his financial problems did not negatively affect his work. If anything, his artistry increased. Such great paintings as The Jewish Bride painted in 1632 and the Syndics of the Sloth Guild were painted during this period of financial depression, known as his ?late? period of art.
In this late period, Baroque drama and outward splendor no longer mattered. A revelation of concern with mood and spirituality surfaced. His pallete quickly became very coloristic, contradicting the typical style of painters around him. The brushwork of his paintings became increasingly bold and he built thick impastos adding almost a third dimension to his art. With his unusual new style and technique, his art had almost a sarcastic attitude to it. For example, the 1169 painting, Portrait of Painter in Old Age, which doesn?t even appear to be done by the same artist when compared with earlier works. The famous portrait of Jan Six was done in deep reds and golds and greys. The painting has a very meditative mood to it, which is very different from the very dramatic, action filled paintings of previous years. In his late period Rembrandt did a painting entitled Potiphars Wife Accusing Joseph, in which Rembrandt concentrated heavily on the natural psychological drama instead of added excitement. Differentiating from the early period, Rembrandt was no longer interested in allegorical and mythological subjects. This might have been a result of his many misfortunes in the remainder of his life.
Finally, in 1663 his beloved Hendrickje died. His only son Titus died just five years later. With this emotional downfall ultimately came his own death on October 4, 1669. During his lifetime, however, he produced several hundred incredible works of art.