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REMBRANDT (1606-1669) Leiden, Netherlands
Man with the Golden Helmet

IMPORTANT FACT: This familiar painting is now considered to NOT be by Rembrandt but by one of his contemporaries. Please check THE OLD MASTERS LINKS FOR DUTCH AND FLEMISH ARTISTS for further information

Self Portrait

Rembrandt van Rijn’s painting of the Night Watch demonstrates why he was considered to be the master of light and shade using the technique known as chiaroscuro. He was also a portrait artist, in addition to which, he painted self-portraits nearly every year of his painting life. However, he seemingly painted more ‘selfies’ than he did of other people and some critics point out that he was not very good at portraiture as he adjusted his work to what he wanted to see which was not necessarily what was in front of him. However, other critics feel he was playing when he portrayed himself with curly hair or with a nose broader than his own. His landscapes include this self-indulgence of painting what he wanted to see. He was a prolific worker producing about 300 paintings, 300 etchings (a lot of himself) and 2000 sketches. During his lifetime Rembrandt’s reputation was built on his etchings not his paintings.

Man with the Golden Helmet

Rembrandt broke the mould of tradition or group portraiture, and this painting was rejected by the group of militia who commissioned it, and it was banished to a storeroom. The title of ‘The Night Watch’ is actually a misnomer. It was applied in the late 1700s because of the perceived darkness of the picture, but on renovation and cleaning, it was found to have been painted showing daylight.

The Night Watch

Many lectures on anatomy for prospective medical students are introduced with this painting “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp”. In those days, a dissection procedure had great spectator value. Two points of note, apparently Rembrandt got his anatomy a bit wrong in the placement of the arm muscles, and secondly, the valve between the large and small intestines which prevents a backflow, is named the Tulp Valve.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp

He did not paint many landscapes of which ‘The Stone Bridge’ is one. The menace of the approaching storm is emphasized by the shaft of sunlight on the tree.

The Stone Bridge

The Three Trees

The Shell

The method Rembrandt employed for his etchings was uniquely his own and has never been used since. Again he used his mastery of chiaroscuro to great effect.