Happy Birthday, Rembrandt!
Happy Birthday, Rembrandt!
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born on July 15, 1606, in Leiden, the Dutch Republic (present-day Netherlands).
Rembrandt was the ninth child of a wealthy family. He attended Latin school as a child and entered the University of Leiden when he was 14. As Rembrandt’s painting talent was revealed, he began an apprenticeship with Leiden history painter Jacob van Swanenburgh for three years.
After that, Rembrandt apprenticed with Pieter Lastman and Jacob Pynas. While most painters of his time traveled to Italy as part of their training, Rembrandt never left the Dutch Republic. In the mid-1620s, Rembrandt opened a studio with Jan Lievens. And in 1627, he began teaching painting to others.
In 1629, statesman Constantjin Huygens met Rembrandt and was so impressed by his work, he helped him to get commissions from the court of The Hague. Through this connection, the prince would continue to purchase Rembrandt’s paintings for over 15 years.
In 1631 Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam and found success working as a professional portrait painter. While there, he met and married his wife, became a burgess of Amsterdam, and joined the local guild of painters. In the coming years, Rembrandt purchased a house, which would later cause him financial difficulties, and his wife gave birth to four children, though only one would survive into adulthood. His wife died shortly after their fourth child was born and Rembrandt later had another child with another woman.
Though he made a lucrative living as a painter, Rembrandt often lived beyond his means. He bought many of his own paintings as well as those of other artists. His collections included works of the Old Masters, busts of Roman Emperors, suits of Japanese armor, and collections of natural history and minerals. He would eventually have to sell much of his collection to pay off debts.
Rembrandt’s sons became art dealers in 1660, to help their father find work in the midst of his debt problems. He was commissioned to do a painting for city hall, but it was later rejected and only a small piece survives today. Rembrandt continued to receive commissions into his final years and also had his own apprentices. He outlived both of his sons and died on October 4, 1669. Rembrandt was poor at the time of his death and was buried in an unknown grave owned by a church. Twenty years later, his remains were removed and destroyed, as was done with the remains of the poor at the time.
During his lifetime, Rembrandt produced over 600 paintings, 400 etchings, and 2,000 drawings. He is considered the most important Dutch painter in history and one of the greatest in European art.
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