Wednesday, 7 August 2013


Rembrandt Van Rijn (1606 - 1669)

Rembrandt is one of the most important painters and etchers in Dutch history, and European history for that matter too. He was about during what was called the 'Dutch Golden Age'. This era was brought on by the end of the 30 years' war in 1648. The war actually lasted 30 years as well, so don't let pub quizzes make you think they've given you a trick question. Rembrandt loved a bit of Italian art and in true Italian style he signed his work with only his first name just like the masters. It is probs not surprising then that 'Van Rijn' is just as little known as 'Sanzio' (as in, Raphael Sanzio)

Self Portrait at the Age of 34, 1640
This is a (relatively) young Rembrandt looking very much like a courtier with his courtier elbow.
Other than showing his grandness Rembrandt added the little detail of the sticky-out-elbow to allow the figure of himself to 'share' and occupy the viewers space.  His adoration for Italians is evident here. Titians Portrait of a Man 1512 is strikingly similar (bottom picture).

Self - Portrait 1661
This portrait later on in his life quite nicely shows the development in Rembrandt's manner, and in attitude too. His brushwork had become increasingly rough; while his facial expression and pose appeals to the idea that he was perhaps an old man getting even older gracefully (that's my opinion on it anyway, his expression kind of says to me 'What do you want now?' - he's abandoned the way in which he purposely portrayed himself as grand in the earlier self-portrait.) There was certainly more expression in this and some have even commented as a  portrait being 'a window into the soul'. Anyway enough of that... the expression, pose, and the paintbrush ajar from the rest ( as if he'd just put it down to acknowledge the onlooker ) all are signs that point towards the Baroque style coming to the Netherlands.

You will notice that once I get to the etchings at the end, 10 years prior to his self- portrait above, Rembrandt etched another self-portrait. You may think the style of that contradicts what I've said here BUT that is believed to be a character study of himself - not the same genre and certainly not used to advertise himself on the same scale as (above) would have been.

Jan Six 1654
The portrait of Jan Six, a very good friend of Rembrandt and the son of a wealthy merchant family in Amsterdam. This portrait is now part of what is known as the Jan Six Collection. The Six family, (and partially the van Winter family whose daughter married one of Jan's descendants) had too much art to know what to do with.

As it was done only slightly before the self portrait shown above, it is the same in style, and ideology. This man is meant to be wealthy and powerful - yet his face and indirect glance makes me feel uneasy. He looks kind of sad, or perhaps fed up. Rembrandt gives him individuality above his outward social identity.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp 1632
This is the body of a condemned robber who was executed, a little bit harsh but Dr Nicolaes Tulp had a job to do - to teach the populace how to locate the tendon in your forearm. Pointless? Oh.
There were actually 'dissection theatres' in the Netherlands, and they used to be open to the public!
I've jumped backwards here but it makes it easier to see how radically his brushstroke was altered. He paints so much clearer here. Certainly Baroque though, no sense of movement from the executed robber however the man to the left of the dr can almost be seen to say 'you lot over there, have you seen this?! its mental'

An Anatomy Lesson of Dr Deyman 1656
Jumping back to the 1650's just to emphasise again the difference in his brushwork and seeing as it's the same genre it's nice. Just a side note, when I was google searching to get this image, another anatomy lesson popped up, and it was of a baby! eugh.

A lot of this was sadly destroyed by a fire. My lecturer said the most odd thing about this, apparently this image was momentarily used for stamps in the republic of Tongo? Is there even a republic of Tongo? Did I hear wrong? Why would they want this as a stamp? Hm.

The Nights Watch 1642
They reckon this one was atleast 20% bigger and cut to fit into the required space when it arrived at the Amsterdam Town Hall in 1715. The two men at the front of the group were presumably in the centre of the composition. This painting has an awfully long official name: 'The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq' but was assigned this name by our very own Joshua Reynolds in the 19th century because it had been tampered with time and time again to leave it looking like a night scene; when in fact, it is in broad daylight. The men are the 'militia company' of so and so but we're not quite sure what they were doing, or preparing to do rather. The majority of the faces in this painting are the 17th century equivalent to what would be an 'extra' on eastenders (except they paid for it themselves although I'm sure there are people out there who would pay...) Rembrandt uses a lot of movement in this scene, which caused some controversy for such a formal matter. He also used foreshortening, impasto, tenebrismo. Through and through Baroque.


Blinding of Samson, 1636
This is a scene painted from the old testament: Samson was a man granted supernatural strength by God but was ordered to NEVER cut any of his hair. He set off to travel and came across a Philistine woman and fell in love. Little did he know she was a bitch and trying to figure out what his weakness was. He told her. She cut off his hair while he slept. He was taken away by the Philistines.

This scene is typical of a history painting. Rembradnt was proving he had the capability to paint one. He rarely got the chance seeing as the Netherlands had no monarch or church to paint for (being a protestant country with a bad case of aniconism and all). Here, he had been commissioned to paint by a private patron: Huyghens.

This style is very Caravaggiesque with tenebrismo and a sense of realism (look at samsons face - that is not heroic - he has curled up toes too, he is obviously in pain). However, it is more finely finished that anything Caravaggio ever did. Rembradnt was known to admire Caravaggio but only had one problem: his use of impasto.

Other influences include Gerrit Van Honthorst's 'Merry Flea Hunt' (1621) although the subject matter was far more noble. Another is Rubens & Snyder's 'Prometheus Bound' (1611-18). The pose is almost identical.

Realism mixed with the grandeur - typically Flemish.

 Belshazzar's feast, 1635

The subject is that of Babylonians at a feast. They had stole plates from the Temple of Jerusalem and the Hebrew reads something along the lines of you've been 'weighed in balance and wanting by God'.

The clothing here is Baroque, the rich patterns and the elaborate turban. Rembradnt had actually copied Mogul drawings, being the first western artist to do so.

The people here are clearly shocked which means there is a sense of drama. It is important to point out as well that their faces are not idealised. As with architecture, Baroque painting is defined by a sense of movement; this is achieved in the neck of the water vessel pointing towards us, with water flowing.

Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis, 1661-2
Depicting a conspiracy to overthrow the Romans, the subject matter could maybe reflect the political relationship (a submissive one) between the Netherlands and Spain. Netherlands wanted Spain out.
The characters are conducting a 'sword oath'. This scene has been repeated time and again for mainly nationalistic purposes. For example Fuseli's and David's paintings.
The three crosses 1653
Rembradnt was probably more well known for his prints. This print is an etching, a technique which involves a layer of wax on top of a copper plate. You use a thin tool to etch the lines into the wax. The wax and copper then soak in acid and the end result is that the wax bites into the copper and leaves marks on the surface where you had removed the wax; then the ink can be applied to the crevices.

This etching shows Rembrandt's mastery in Chiaroscuro in even print. I really hate prints, so boring.
The hundred Guilder Print 1647-8
This print is an example of the popular interest in Rembrandt's prints. It was so amazing that apparently someone even bought it for 100 guilders.........I have no idea how much that equates to.
Self Portrait in a Cap, with Eyes Wide Open, 1631
A character-like study of himself, he's used the etching technique here but the coarser lines are the product of him also using the burin of the dry point technique.

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