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 Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn  (1606 - 1669)

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Lived/Active: Netherlands      Known for: allegorical, mystical landscapes, portraits and etchings

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BIOGRAPHY for Rembrandt Van Rijn
1606 (Leiden, Netherlands)
1669 (Amsterdam, Netherlands)


Self portrait - Self-Portrait, 1661

Often Known For
allegorical, mystical landscapes, portraits and etchings

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Rembrandt was born in Leyden on July 15, 1606.  In 1620 he became a student at the Latin School of Leyden University, but soon gave up his formal education to enter the studio of Jacob van Swanenburch.  He continued his instruction in Amsterdam with Pieter Lastman and then Jan Pynas.  In 1626 he returned to Leyden, an independent master, and entered into partnership with Gerald Dou (1628).  Three years later he settled in Amsterdam, where he remained until his death.  In that city his first big portrait group, "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp" gained him immediate recognition and a fashionable portrait following.  Rembrandt, however, could not accept that sort of career and "The Night Watch", finished in 1642, aroused the hostility of his sitters.

Titus, the artist's only son was born in 1641, the year preceding his mother, Saskia's, death.  In their eight years of married life, Saskia had born Rembrandt four children, but only Titus survived childhood.  His financial affairs meanwhile had become disastrously involved and were rapidly getting out of control, and in 1656 he was declared insolvent.  He continued consistently to work, despite his misfortunes, living with Hendrickje Stoffels, who had been his housekeeper, and Titus, and in 1654 a daughter, Cornelia was born.

The number of his paintings, etchings and drawings is unusually large.  No artist has ever left so complete a record of his own appearance as has Rembrandt.  He used himself constantly as a model, from his boyhood to the very year of his death, and it has been estimated that he must have made at least two self-portraits a year throughout his life.  He died on October 4, 1669 and was buried in the Westerkerk.

Sources include:
Masterpieces of Art, catalogue of the New York World's Fair 1940
Metropolitan Museum of Art Miniatures: Rembrandts in the Metropolitan.

Biography from Odon Wagner Gallery:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Rembrandt is revered not only as a painter, but also as a supreme master of etchings.  His work in etching spanned most of his career and embraced the wide range of subjects he pursued in his painting: portraits, landscapes, biblical scenes, pictures with allegorical and mythological themes, and more.

We know almost nothing about the distribution of Rembrandt's etchings.  It seems possible that Rembrandt printed them in his own studio; he may even have been responsible for their distribution.  The high standard of the impressions and the frequent reworking of the plates support such an assumption.  It seems probable that the majority of Rembrandt's plates were still in his studio during the last years, even though they are not listed in the inventory of 1656.  Nevertheless, one cannot exclude the possibility that outside publishers were requited.

An etched plate can only produce a certain number of high-quality impressions because the process of printing wears down the etched lines, making them more indistinct with every impression.  Approximately one hundred excellent impressions could have been obtained from one of Rembrandt's plates.  However, this number sank drastically if drypoint was used because the burr is much more fragile.  From such plates Rembrandt may have acquired 15 to 20 excellent impressions, a number which is consistent with existing examples.  The velvet tonality so characteristic of the technique diminishes with impression made over and above this number.

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