Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606 – 1669) was a Dutch painter and etcher. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history and the most important in Dutch history, says Wikipedia. His contributions to art came in a period that historians call the Dutch Golden Age.
Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, his later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardship. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high, and for twenty years he taught nearly every important Dutch painter.
Rembrandt's greatest creative triumphs are exemplified especially in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born on July 15, 1606 in Leiden, the Netherlands. He was the ninth child. His family was quite well-to-do; his father was a miller and his mother was a baker's daughter. As a boy he attended Latin school and was enrolled at the University of Leiden, although according to a contemporary he had a greater inclination towards painting; he was soon apprenticed to a Leiden history painter, Jacob van Swanenburgh, with whom he spent three years.
After a brief but important apprenticeship of six months with the famous painter Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam, Rembrandt opened a studio in Leiden in 1624 or 1625, which he shared with friend and colleague Jan Lievens. In 1627, Rembrandt began to accept students, among them Gerrit Dou.
In 1629 Rembrandt was discovered by the statesman Constantijn Huygens, the father of Christiaan Huygens (a famous Dutch mathematician and physicist), who procured for Rembrandt important commissions from the court of The Hague. As a result of this connection, Prince Frederik Hendrik continued to purchase paintings from Rembrandt until 1646.
At the end of 1631, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, then rapidly expanding as the new business capital of the Netherlands, and began to practice as a professional portraitist for the first time, with great success. He initially stayed with an art dealer, Hendrick van Uylenburg, and in 1634, married Hendrick's cousin, Saskia van Uylenburg. Saskia came from a good family: her father had been lawyer and burgemeester (mayor) of Leeuwarden.
In 1635 Rembrandt and Saskia moved into their own house, renting in fashionable Nieuwe Doelenstraat. In 1639, they moved to a prominent house (now the Rembrandt House Museum) in the Jodenbreestraat in what was becoming the Jewish quarter; the mortgage to finance the 13,000 guilder purchase would be a primary cause for later financial difficulties.
He should easily have been able to pay it off with his large income, but it appears his spending always kept pace with his income, and he may have made some unsuccessful investments. It was there that Rembrandt frequently sought his Jewish neighbors to model for his Old Testament scenes.
During Saskia's illness, Geertje Dircx was hired as Titus' caretaker and nurse and probably also became Rembrandt's lover.
In the late 1640s Rembrandt began a relationship with the much younger Hendrickje Stoffels, who had initially been his maid. In 1654 they had a daughter, Cornelia, bringing Hendrickje a summons from the Reformed Church to answer the charge "that she had committed the acts of a whore with Rembrandt the painter".
Among the more prominent characteristics of his work are his use of chiaroscuro, the theatrical employment of light and shadow derived from Caravaggio, or, more likely, from the Dutch Caravaggisti, but adapted for very personal means. Also notable are his dramatic and lively presentation of subjects, devoid of the rigid formality that his contemporaries often displayed, and a deeply felt compassion for mankind, irrespective of wealth and age.
His immediate family—his wife Saskia, his son Titus and his common-law wife Hendrickje—often figured prominently in his paintings, many of which had mythical, biblical or historical themes.
A parallel development may be seen in his skill as a printmaker. In the etchings of his maturity, particularly from the late 1640s onward, the freedom and breadth of his drawings and paintings found expression in the print medium as well. The works encompass a wide range of subject matter and technique, sometimes leaving large areas of white paper to suggest space, at other times employing complex webs of line to produce rich dark tones.
Rembrandt painted The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq between 1640 and 1642. This picture was called the Nachtwacht by the Dutch and the Night Watch by Sir Joshua Reynolds because, upon its discovery, the picture was so dimmed and defaced by time that it was almost indistinguishable and it looked quite like a night scene. After it was cleaned, it was discovered to represent broad day—a party of musketeers stepping from a gloomy courtyard into the blinding sunlight.