Painter and printmaker (1606 - 1669)
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born on 15 July 1606 in Leiden (Holland), eighth son of nine brothers. His father, a wealthy miller, owned a mill on the banks of the Rhine and was therefore called "Van Rijn" (of the Rhine).
Eager for his son to make an important career, and to rise from the artisan class, he enrolled him, in 1620, in the faculty of letters of his city.
The young man remained there for a few months, preferring to attend the studio of the painter Isaaksz van Swanenburg who introduced him to Italian art and his masterpieces, studied feverishly by the student.
In addition to this, it must be emphasized that in the first two decades of 1600 painting from all over Europe was shaken by the revolutionary art of Caravaggio, which obtained surprising realistic effects thanks to the personal use of lights. A lesson that Rembrandt will keep in mind.
Moreover, the economy exploded in Holland (thanks to the sweaty independence from the Spaniards and the unification of the Netherlands), the painter's city became an important humanistic and artistic center, even under the impetus of the university. An important pictorial school developed second only to that of Utrecht whose leading artist was Luca da Leida; an important reference point for the first pictorial experiences of Rembrandt.
After this apprenticeship, Rembrandt joins the same age as Jan Lievens, who is also a great painter: their fame gradually spreads among the environments of the educated bourgeoisie, the same who loves phrases portrayed by the two artists in a realistic and recognizable way. But the real opportunity for the Dutch painter's career comes in 1631, shortly after his father's death. In fact, Rembrandt decides to leave Leiden for Amsterdam. In this city, the pictorial formation of Rembrandt ends, in particular thanks to the lessons of Pieter Lastman, a famous local artist. Rembrandt carefully studies Lastman's paintings and learns the precision and use of typically Italian color, re-proposing some of the master's historical subjects. Thanks to extreme skill, however, the student soon surpasses the master. Even connoisseurs are aware of it, who in a short time elect Rembrandt to their darling. Moreover, he has the opportunity to access the cultured environments of high society and, thanks to these "entrances", to get engaged to Saskia, grandson of a rich art dealer; the two later married in 1634. And it was in this period, from 1634 to 1642, that Rembrandt inaugurated his masterpieces, ranging from the famous "Anatomy Lesson by Dr. Tulp" to the "Passion of the Christ".
From this moment on Rembrandt van Rijn also surrounded himself with a large group of disciples, for whom he decided to build a school "ex novo". But starting from 1640 ca., his economic and family stastus collapses due, on one hand, to the inadequate management of finances and on the other to the collapse of real emotional dramas. In 1640 his mother died and soon after his beloved wife. Alone and disconsolate he retires into painting until he meets Geertge Dirck, the governess of his son Tito, with whom he undertakes an intense relationship. The latter, however, due to its scandalous conduct undergoes a process that results in a conviction in a correctional house. Not surprisingly, in this period Rembrandt's production reveals extreme suffering: in self-portraits he appears to be a man aged and lacking in vitality.
After this love story, he falls in love with Hendrickje Stoffels, with whom he lives and marries later. Together they will have two children.
One of his most famous paintings dates back to 1654: "Bathsheba with the letter of David".
Later, in 1657 Rembrandt lost all his possessions and was forced to move to a modest home. After 1660, however, he managed to re-establish himself on the European scene: he painted the "Mayors of drapers" and the "Jury of Batavians", works characterized by an extreme mastery of colors and brushstrokes.
A ray of light returns to illuminate the life of the artist when his son Tito marries a distant relative of Saskia: personal stories enter the works of the painter and give them a remarkable humanity. It is no coincidence that Rembrandt in the "Presentation to the temple" gives the old Simeon the extreme sweetness of someone who, like him, has now become a grandfather.
Rembrandt decided to paint only for himself, achieving very high results. He died on 4 October 1669 in Amsterdam at the age of 63.