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Rembrandt van Rijn


One of the Greatest Painters Of All Time

Dutch Baroque  Painter, Draftsman  and Engraver

The Night Watch c.1642  one of the greatest paintings of all time

According to Art Historian Estelle M. Hurll  "Rembrandt apparently cared very little for the nude, for the delicate curves of the body and the exquisite colors of flesh. Yet to overbalance this disregard of beautiful form was his strong predilection for finery. None ever loved better the play of light upon jewels and satin and armor, the rich effectiveness of Oriental stuffs and ecclesiastical vestments. Unable to gratify this taste in the portraits which he painted to order, he took every opportunity to paint both himself and his wife, Saskia, in costume. Wherever the subject admitted, he introduced what he could of rich detail. In the picture of Israel Blessing the Sons of Joseph, Asenath, as the wife of an Egyptian official, is appropriately adorned with jewels and finery. In the Sortie of the Civic Guard, Captain Cocq is resplendent in his military regalia.

With all this fondness for pretty things, Rembrandt never allowed his fancy to carry him beyond the limits of fitness in sacred art. The Venetian masters had represented the most solemn scenes of the New Testament with a pomp and magnificence entirely at variance with their meaning. Rembrandt understood better the real significance of Christianity, and made no such mistake. His Supper at Emmaus is the simple evening meal of three[x] peasant pilgrims precisely as it is represented in the Gospel. His Christ Preaching includes a motley company of humble folk, such as the great Teacher loved to gather about him.

It was perhaps the obverse side of his fondness for finery, that Rembrandt had a strong leaning towards the picturesqueness of rags. A very interesting class of his etchings is devoted to genre studies and beggars. Here his disregard of the beautiful in the passion for expression reached an extreme. His subjects are often grotesque—sometimes repulsive—but always intensely human. Reading human character with rare sympathy, he was profoundly touched by the poetry and the pathos of these miserable lives. Through all these studies runs a quaint vein of humor, relieving the pathos of the situations. The picturesque costume of the old Rat Killer tickles the sense of humor, and conveys somehow a delightful suggestion of his humbuggery which offsets the touching squalor of the grotesque little apprentice. And none but a humorist could have created the swaggering hostler's boy holding the Good Samaritan's horse.

As a revealer of character, Rembrandt reaches the climax of his power in his portraits. From this class of his pictures alone one can repeople Holland with the spirits of the seventeenth century. All classes and conditions and all ages came within the range of his magic brush and burin. The fresh girlhood of Saskia, the sturdy manhood of the Syndics, and the storied old age of his favorite old woman model show the scope of his power, and in Israel Blessing the Sons of Joseph he shows the whole range in a single composition. He is manifestly at his best when his sitter has pronounced features and wrinkled skin, a face full of character, which he under[xi]stood so well how to depict. Obstacles stimulated him to his highest endeavor. Given the prosaic and hackneyed motif of the Syndics' composition, he rose to the highest point of artistic expression in a portrait group, in which a grand simplicity of technical style is united with a profound and intimate knowledge of human nature."


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