Rembrandt van Rijn

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The life of Rembrandt van Rijn, one of the most significant Dutch masters of the 17th centuries, was characterised by many high and low points which, combined with his unbridled talent, led to the creation of a world-famous oeuvre.

  • Learn more about Rembrandt van Rijn’s life and work.
  • Read about his unique qualities as an artist and as a teacher.
  • Find out where his most famous works can be viewed and visit the exhibitions.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), possible the most famous Dutch artist who ever lived, was born in Leiden as the son of a rich miller. At the age of eighteen, he moved to Amsterdam to work for Pieter Lastman, a popular painter. Six months later, he returned to Leiden to open his own workshop.

In Leiden, he accepted his first pupils, among them Gerrit Dou, and his popularity grew rapidly. In 1631, he decided to return to the flowering city of Amsterdam, where he received his first large commissions, such as from Nicolaes Tulp, for whom he produced a famous work. Three years later, he married Saskia van Uylenburch.

Although he was a very talented and appreciated artist, Rembrandt spent the last years of his life in miserable circumstances. His dear Saskia passed away and his many debts compelled him to sell his house and his possessions. A few years later, he lost his mistress Henkdrickje Stoffels and his son Titus as well, and he died penniless in 1669.

Rembrandt’s work

Rembrandt is lauded especially for the way he used shadows and light (a technique known as chiaroscuro) to foreground events and figures in his paintings, which gave his paintings a dramatic and dynamic effect. He also had no qualms about taking a creative approach.

His most famous work, The Night Watch, is a lively composition that clearly distinguishes itself from other significant group portraits. Rembrandt probably produced about 300 paintings, 300 etchings and 2000 sketches. Gerard Dou, Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck are among the more famous of his pupils.

Where to find Rembrandt van Rijn

Dozens of Rembrandt’s works can be admired in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, including his famous work The Night Watch. The Mauritshuis in The Hague also has ten of his paintings on display, including “Anatomic lesson by Dr Nicolaes Tulp”. If you are interested in Rembrandt’s life, consider visiting Museum het Rembrandthuis (the Rembrandt House Museum), where many of his etchings can be examined.

Exhibition Late Rembrandt

Between 12 February and 17 May 2015, the exhibition ‘Late Rembrandt’ is on display in the Rijksmuseum. This exhibition comprises more than 80 works from the final period of Rembrandt’s life displaying exceptional graphic and painting techniques.

Daring, individual and intimate

Emerging from the shadow of tragic personal losses and financial setbacks, Rembrandt produced some of his finest work in his final years. By experimenting with paint and light, he achieved an unparalleled emotional depth, leading to his most daring, individual and intimate works.

“For the first time in over twenty years, the Rijksmuseum will again be organising a Rembrandt exhibition, giving every generation the chance to renew its acquaintance with the great Master of the Golden Age.” Wim Pijbes, General Director of the Rijksmuseum