“Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear
what now you do not know.” ~ Rembrandt van Rijn
Rembrandt van Rijn was born on July 15, 1606 in the city of Leiden in North Holland, a province in the Netherlands.
His home faced a family-owned windmill which overlooked a branch of the Rhine River.
He was one of many children (some say seven, while others say nine). But his parents were well-off enough to give him a good education. Rembrandt showed artistic talent from a very young age, drawing pictures of his family and windmills near his home.
At the age of 15, he was apprenticed to artist, Jacob van Swanenburg, then three years later, he was apprenticed to Pieter Lastman. In 1625, at the age of 19, Rembrandt had set up his own art studio and began selling his paintings of Biblical scenes…
as well as painting portraits of local people.
By age 21, he began teaching art to others.
In 1631, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, the capitol of the Netherlands, where he became a successful portrait painter.
Most artists in his day made people look perfect in their portraits, smoothing their wrinkles to give them beautiful skin and correcting other flaws in their appearance. And it was traditional for people to be painted sitting still in their portraits. However, Rembrandt painted people just as he saw them, using light and shadow to show their wrinkles and tiniest of flaws.
He had the ability to capture his subjects’ personality and emotions.
He also liked to show them in action: doctors examining a corpse…
or soldiers getting ready for battle.
He seemed to make the people in his portraits come alive. He used an Italian painting technique known as “chiaroscuro” or “light and dark” to show the contrasts of detail in his paintings. His attention to detail set him apart as an artist, and he was in high demand.
In 1634, Rembrandt married Saskia van Uglenburgh, the niece of his art dealer.
He was earning a great deal of money, but he also loved to spend it, buying fine clothing, expensive jewelry, and collecting artwork.
He painted many portraits over the course of his life, and almost 100 of them were self-portraits. He was the original master of the “selfie.” 😉
But it was his etchings that made him internationally known. Through the process of etching (or cutting hatch marks) onto copper plate, then covering the plate with ink, Rembrandt could create a piece, print as many copies of it as he wanted, and send those copies anywhere in the world.
In 1641, Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia gave birth to a son, Titus.
Unfortunately, Saskia died shortly thereafter. Later on, he fell in love with Titus’ nurse, Hendrickje, and in 1654 they had a daughter, Cornelia.
Unfortunately, in his later years, Rembrandt was very much in debt and couldn’t earn enough money to support his family. He had to sell his beautiful home and many of his belongings to pay his debts. In 1660, Titus and Hendrickje opened a small art shop from which they sold Rembrandt’s art to support their family.
Sadly, Rembrandt’s last years were miserable ones. He and his family were poor. In 1663, Hendrickje died, five years later, his son, Titus died, and the following year, 1669, Rembrandt died at the age of 63.
Today, Rembrandt is considered the most important Dutch painter in history.
He is remembered for the exquisite detailed realism of his artwork and has inspired artists and art lovers throughout the centuries.
His paintings continue to be some of the highest valued artwork in the world.
Vincent van Gogh wrote:
“Rembrandt is so deeply mysterious that he says things
for which there are no words in any language.
Rembrandt is truly called a magician… that’s not an easy calling.”
Want to experiment with Rembrandt’s art? In my Mixing with the Masters, Volume One lesson on Rembrandt, we learn even more about him and create three pieces inspired by some of his masterworks.
Purchase the entire course (including six master artists) for $60,
or just the Rembrandt lesson for $12:
Book Recommendations for Further Study:
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*Linking up with my friends at iHomeschool Network for July Birthday Lessons.
Alisha Gratehouse is an artist, art instructor, minister’s wife, and homeschooling mom of three. Her days are filled with creating, painting, writing, drinking lots of tea, laughing with (and at) her family, and spontaneously bursting forth into song. Alisha is the author of several books including, A Life That Flourishes.