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About Rembrandt van Rijn - Famous Painter

Updated on December 8, 2014
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Katherine has researched and written about many British, European and Japanese Artists - both past and present

An Introduction to Rembrandt van Rijn

Find out about about Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669).

This is a compendium of links to information about Rembrandt's drawings, etchings, paintings and portraits; museums and art galleries and exhibitions where you can see his work.

It also has links to books and articles about his artwork and online resources for artists wanting to improve their knowledge about he worked.

Paperback: 354 pages

Publisher: University of California Press / Amsterdam University Press; Second Edition,

Revised edition (April 6, 2009)


BOOK: Rembrandt: The Painter at Work


This book practices artistic archeology and unpicks the way Rembrandt painted. It takes a virtual look over his shoulder and identifies the variety of art materials and techniques that he used to create the effects he painted

Rated an average of 4.9 out of 5 stars by 23 customer reviews

Ernst van de Wetering has researched Rembrandt's working methods, his intellectual approach to the art of painting and the way in which his studio functioned. In this scholarly book he records what he has found out and then applies this knowledge to demonstrate how it can be used to used to address issues about authenticity.

Simon Schama describes it as "a wonderful book" and essential to the understanding of Rembrandt.

Ernst Gombrich is very complementary about the way the author's skills as both art connoisseur and practising painter enable him to comment authoritatively on Rembrandt's practice

Ernst van de Wetering is Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of Amsterdam.

Rembrandt's Early Life

Rembrandt is one of the leading European painters of all time. He is the most famous Dutch painter and is particularly renowned for his portraits and drawing.

Rembrandt's full name was Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn.

The son of a miller he was born in Leiden in southern Holland on July 15, 1606. He was well educated and at the age of 14 he was enrolled at the University of Leiden. However art interested him more and he soon left and started his art studies. He was apparenticed to a local art master, Jacob van Swanenburch, for three years and then studied with Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam.

  • Age 18, he returned to Leiden and opened a studio.
  • Age 21, he began to accept pupils - one of whom was the painter Gerrit Dou.
  • By the age of 23 he had been 'discovered' and was being awarded important commissions.

 Self portrait with Wide Nose (c. 1626-1630) etching, pen and brown ink on paper
Self portrait with Wide Nose (c. 1626-1630) etching, pen and brown ink on paper | Source
Rembrandt and Saskia in the parable of the Prodigal Son (1635)
Rembrandt and Saskia in the parable of the Prodigal Son (1635) | Source

Married life in Amsterdam

  • In 1631, age 25 he moved to Amsterdam which was the new business capital of the Netherlands. Here he began to practice as a professional portrait painter for the first time. He has become renowned for the series of self-portraits he painted over the years - probably the greatest series of self-portraits ever produced.
  • In 1634, age 28 he married Saskia van Uylenburgh, the cousin of a successful art dealer. This brought him into contarct with wealthy patrons and generated commissions for portraits
  • Five years later, in 1639 they moved to the house which is now the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam.
  • Between 1635 and 1641 Saskia gave birth to four children, but only the last, Titus, survived.
  • Saskia died in 1842 at the age of 30.

Self Portrait (1640) - the year before Saskia died
Self Portrait (1640) - the year before Saskia died | Source
Self Portrait - Rembrandt Drawing at a Window (1648) drypoint, etching and engraving on paper - a portrait of a widower of some years
Self Portrait - Rembrandt Drawing at a Window (1648) drypoint, etching and engraving on paper - a portrait of a widower of some years | Source

Later Life

  • Around about 1649, he recuited Hendrickje Stoffels as his housekeeper. She modelled for many of his pictures and eventually became his common-law wife.
  • His studio was always filled with pupils which has caused some concern over the years as to the attribution of paintings.
  • Rembrandt was financially successful - as an artist, art teacher and art dealer.
  • However he tended to spend beyond his income and eventually became bankrupt in 1656.

Self-portrait as the apostle Paul (1661)
Self-portrait as the apostle Paul (1661) | Source

The end of life

  • Hendrickje died in 1663
  • his son, Titus died five years later in 1668 at only 27 years of age.
  • Eleven months later, on October 4, 1669, Rembrandt died in Amsterdam.

Hardcover: 384 pages

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams

(November 8, 2006)


BIOGRAPHY: The Rembrandt Book - by Gary Schwartz

RECOMMENDED: Rated - 4.8 out of 5 stars based on 9 customer reviews

The world's leading Rembrandt expert provides a penetrating-and accessible-examination of the Dutch master's life and art from both the biographical and the art historical perspective.

Gary Schwartz is a very serious Rembrandt Scholar and an American art historian who lives and works in the Netherlands. He has been influential in the reappraisal of the life of rembrandt through the re-examination and tranlsation from Dutch of primary documents relating to Rembrandt's life

Schwartz revised the accepted view of Rembrandt, arguing against the notion that the artist was a humanitarian and an isolated genius. Schwartz's examination of a myriad of documents resulted in a portrait of the artist as competitive and not a particularly well-read person. Throughout his career, his translations of Dutch texts established him as a primary-source scholar.

— Dictionary of Art Historians - about Gary Schwartz

BOOK: Rembrandt by Himself - by Christopher White (Editor), Quentin Buvelot (Editor)

Rated: 5.0 out of 5 stars (3 customer reviews)

One of the things I like to do when visiting the National Gallery in London is sit in the room with the Rembrandt Self-Portraits and study how he painted himself.

This book explores how Rembrandt`s self-portraits developed over his life span.

His surviving self-portraits include 45 oil paintings, scores of drawings, and over 30 etchings. It explores why the genre was so important in his work, and how his innovative style influenced his contemporaries.

Rembrandt's Eyes
Rembrandt's Eyes

Paperback: 768 pages

Publisher: Knopf;

Reprint edition (October 23, 2001)


BIOGRAPHY: Rembrandt's Eyes - by Simon Schama

Rated: 4.7 out of 5 stars (29 customer reviews)

Simon Schama shows that the true biography of Rembrandt is to be discovered in his pictures.

Paperback: 240 pages

Publisher: SelfMadeHero

(April 4, 2013)


Rembrandt - by Typex (illustrator)

This is an impressive graphic novel illustrated by the well known illustrator Typex.

The unusual book is the product of a very unusual collaboration between:

* the author, Typex,

* The Netherlands foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture and

* the Rijk museum, home of the world's largest and most important Rembrandt collection

Rembrandt's paintings

This is where you can see Rembrandts' paintings in museums and online

Commentary by British Museum:

This is an unconventional type of portrait. It is both affectionate and yet not a precise likeness of the sitter.

She can only be recognized in generalized terms as Hendrickje Stoffels (about 1626-63), Rembrandt's common-law wife. With the tip of the brush and only a few broad strokes he rapidly and skilfully outlined her sleeping body. He also used the white of the paper to create not just her form but also the atmosphere surrounding her. Above her head, a thin wash sets off her figure by suggesting the darkness of a corner of the room.

The study is drawn entirely with the brush in brown wash with some white bodycolour. This was an unusual technique for Rembrandt who mostly used pen or chalk in his drawings.

Rembrandt Drawings

Rembrandt is admired by many for the quality of his drawings

Two Women Teaching a Child to Walk (circa 1635-1637) - red chalk on gray paper
Two Women Teaching a Child to Walk (circa 1635-1637) - red chalk on gray paper | Source

Drawing of The Elephant

Elephant (c.1637)  black chalk and charcoal Height: 17.9 cm (7 in). Width: 25.6 cm (10.1 in)
Elephant (c.1637) black chalk and charcoal Height: 17.9 cm (7 in). Width: 25.6 cm (10.1 in) | Source
Self Portrait with a Cap, openmouthed (1630) etching
Self Portrait with a Cap, openmouthed (1630) etching | Source

Rembrandt etchings

Rembrandt also excelled at etching

BOOKS: Rembrandt Drawings and Etchings - Books on Amazon

Rembrandt Drawings: 116 Masterpieces in Original Color (Dover Fine Art, History of Art)
Rembrandt Drawings: 116 Masterpieces in Original Color (Dover Fine Art, History of Art)

Average Amazon review: 4.3 out of 5 stars based on 6 customer reviewsThis is a deluxe hardcover edition. The Rembrandt drawings come from 20+ European and American museums. Examples include examples of drawings of landscapes, biblical vignettes, figure studies, animal sketches, and portraits. The book demonstrates high-quality production values with drawings presented in their original hues.

Rembrandt House: A Catalogue of Rembrandt Etchings
Rembrandt House: A Catalogue of Rembrandt Etchings

The house on the Jodenbreestraat in Amsterdam, where Rembrandt lived for more than twenty years, was opened as a museum in 1911. The complete collection of the Rembrandthuis, comprising more than 250 etchings as well as a number of drawings and paintings, have been included in the book. Also included is an extensive introduction about the history of this singular house and about the origins of the collection as well as the descriptive catalogue section.

Rembrandt: The Master and His Workshop: Drawings and Etchings (National Gallery London Publications)
Rembrandt: The Master and His Workshop: Drawings and Etchings (National Gallery London Publications)

Together with "Rembrandt: The Master and his Workshop (Paintings)", this book serves as the catalogue for a major exhibition of Rembrandt's paintings, drawings, and etchings opening at the Altes Museum in Berlin and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in 1991. Paintings and etchings from this exhibition will later be on display at the National Gallery in London; the drawings will be shown at the British Museum. This volume surveys Rembrandt' s entire graphic oeuvre, relating his works to those of his students, who learned by copying his drawings and etchings. There are essays on Rembrandt's development and technique as a graphic artist and a detailed study of 40 drawings and 40 etchings by Rembrandt. There are also drawings by members of Rembrandt's workshop.


VIDEOS - Rembrandt van Rijn Self-Portraits

Skip the first minute - nothing happens! Includes drawings and etchings as well as paintings

Rembrandt's Self Portraits

There are many Rembrandt self-portraits and there must be few artists whose life and career are recorded so faithfully in museums and art galleries around the world.

Self-portrait (1659)
Self-portrait (1659) | Source

Hardcover: 368 pagesPublisher: Princeton Univ Pr; First Edition edition (February 1990)New condition is very expensive and also expensive for second hand condition

Rembrandt and Revolution (Revolutionary Portraits)
Rembrandt and Revolution (Revolutionary Portraits)

Paperback: 96 pagesPublisher: Redwords (October 10, 2001)


Rembrandt in Museums and Art Galleries

Links to museum website pages about Rembrandt

Exhibitions of Rembrandt's work

Current and upcoming exhibitions about Rembrandt include:

NATIONAL GALLERY, LONDON - Rembrandt: The Final Years (15 October 2014 - 18 January 2015) This exhibition has been organised by the National Gallery in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. It is the first ever in-depth, focused exploration of Rembrandt's late works across all media.

Rembrandt Lighting

Rembrandt lighting is a term given to a way of lighting a face that is being painted or photographed. The light falls on only part of the face

There are two criteria for lighting to be described as Rembrandt Lighting

  • the light essentially falls on on one half the face
  • the other shadowed half of the face has a triangle of light below the eye and next to the nose where the triangle of light is no wider than the eye, and no longer than the nose.

To create the lighting, the face needs to be lit from one side only. It can be achieved with a single light source lighting the side of the face furthest away from the artist or photographer - at an angle of approximately 45 degrees relative to the subject and slightly higher than the nose.

BOOK: Rembrandt in America: Collecting and Connoisseurship

Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

This book was produced to mark a major exhibition in 2011 which brought together some 50 of the best Rembrandt paintings from American collections.

Comments and Suggestions - Let me know what you think - but please do not spam

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This lens is a really useful resource, thank you. I like the inclusion of a section on lighting, as Rembrandt's use of light is what makes him one of my favourite artists.

    • GonnaFly profile image


      8 years ago from Australia

      What an interesting and helpful lens. Rembrandt was successful so young yet had such a tragic life.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      This is an awesome collection of Rembrandt resources. I would like to add Masterworks Fine, Art, Inc. collection to this. These are some very nice Rembrandt etchings

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      That is a great article there. I have been thinking about moving on from pencils to some sort of paint, so the lighting part could really help me :) .Check out if you have the time


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