He was one of the leading painters of the Dutch Golden Age. He is considered, today, to be one of the greatest masters of all time. His paintings are notable for their inky blacks, and dramatic use of light and shadow. Here are a few interesting facts about Rembrandt.
The Early Years
1. The Dutch painter, Rembrandt, was born in the city of Leiden in 1606. His full name was Rembrant Harmenszoon van Rijn. It means 'son of Harmen, near the Rhine River'. Although there was no 'd' in his birth name, in 1633 he added a silent ‘d’ to his signature, for reasons unknown.
2. After moving to Amsterdam in 1631, Rembrandt abandoned his university studies to devote himself to painting, and completed his training under Pieter Lastman, who specialized in historical and biblical subjects. Soon thereafter, he became a 'Burgess of Amsterdam', an elected official of high regard. And as a member of the local guild of painters, he soon acquired a few students and enjoyed a successful career as a painter.
3. By 1632, he was already demonstrating his versatility and impressive range. He produced mythological, biblical and allegorical scenes, in addition to landscapes and portraits. Both in paintings and etchings, he experimented with saturating large areas with color to achieve unprecedented levels of psychological character in his work.
4. In addition to his paintings, Rembrandt was quite prolific in printmaking. He was capable of achieving extraordinarily intricate detail on a small scale in etchings. These prints were widely studied, and launched Rembrandt into international fame that was no longer limited to the Dutch Republic.
5. Although the classical Italian masters had a great influence on him during his training, Rembrandt never once left the Dutch Republic during his lifetime.
6. Rembrandt's early works are signed RHL (Rembrandus Hermanni Leydensis). He later switched to RHL-van-Rijn. Eventually, he signed his name simply as 'Rembrandt' for the majority of his career.
7. His innovations extend beyond his handling of light and shadow. In arranging his group portraits, Rembrandt broke the convention of stately and static grouping, preferring mid-action scenes of movement. His grouped figures appear preparing for missions, relaxing together in a jovial manner, or naturally arranged around a single focal point.
8. Rembrandt enjoys a significant and influential legacy affecting painters of later generations. Vincent van Gogh held a high regard for Rembrandt. “Rembrandt goes so deep into the mysterious that he says things for which there are no words in any language. It is with justice that they call Rembrandt ‘ a magician’ - that’s no easy occupation.”
He Died In Poverty
9. Despite his commercial and financial success, by the late 1640s, Rembrandt could no longer pay his mortgage and had to declare insolvency. He sold his house, many objects and paintings from his collection, and his printing press. He moved his family into a smaller home, and never financially recovered, eventually dying in poverty. His daughter, Cornelia, was Rembrandt’s only living immediate family member by the time of his death in 1669.
10. Scholars continue to debate the veracity of Rembrandt's complete catalog, and believe that only about 300 paintings on canvas are authentically his, as opposed to the 2,000 works that have been attributed to him.