Modern painters inspired by Rembrandt

A hallmark of Rembrandt’s style was his focus on depicting reality, an openness revealed in his ample portraits of a diverse range of people and his self-portraits.

Frank Auerbach

The British painter was attracted to Rembrandt’s attention to raw truth. Auerbach was fascinated by how the old master was able to capture the essence of his subjects, and this inspired his own paintings in the 1960s. In 2012, the Rijksmuseum displayed six of these pieces as part of a series of exhibitions that look at how modern and contemporary artists are influenced by works in their collection.

Frank Auerbach
Frank Auerbach - Head of E.O.W. IV, 1961, National Gallery of Scotland.

Anselm Keifer

This artist was also featured in the Rijksmuseum’s Rembrandt series. Keifer’s controversial installation in 2010 was inspired by The Night Watch, though it was more a homage to van Gogh, who himself was greatly influenced by Rembrandt.

Francis Bacon

This British artist is known for his hard-hitting portraits that often have an air of psychological violence to them. Described as merciless and unsettling, they are honest to the point of despair. They channel Rembrandt’s own self portraits that never shied away from truth. This was something Bacon strived for in his work.

Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon - Three Studies for a Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, 1963

Glenn Brown

Another British painter infatuated by Rembrandt, Glenn Brown was the focus of an exhibition at the Rembrandt House Museum in 2017 and will be in the forthcoming Inspired by Rembrandt exhibition. Brown transforms Rembrandt’s work, sometimes digitally, and then reimagines it using scale and mark-making.

Photographers & the Old Master

Photography is the perfect medium to explore the high contrasts that Rembrandt has become associated with. After all, it’s all about light in photography. Along with a generation of contemporary artists including Carla van de Puttelaar, Desiree Dolron and Hellen van Meene, here are a few photographers that pay homage to Rembrandt.

Hendrik Kerstens

Rembrandt’s influence is clearly evident in the work of this Dutch photographer, whose portraits exude elegance and the old master’s signature use of chiaroscuro. Hendrik is known for his tender and psychological portraits of his daughter Paula who he photographed as she grew. With subtly, his work challenges contemporary themes including the use of plastic, which is used in a startling and surprisingly beautiful way. Bold contrasts and compelling lighting add to the drama of his work. No wonder his work has appeared in esteemed publications including The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and Foam.

Hendrik Kerstens
Hendrik Kerstens

Sacha Goldberger

This French photographer channels Rembrandt in his photographic portraits that hark back to the 17th century and Flemish painting. Using traditional portraiture compositions, he’s also applied the use of high contrast to a compelling series of portraits of contemporary super heroes.

Yousuf Karsh

Portraits by this Armenian-Canadian photographer depict political leaders and important figures, rendered in dramatic lighting that champion the great master’s style. This is clearly evident in his portrait of Winston Churchill, among others.

Ansel Adams

As a devotee of high contrast, the American landscape photographer, is likely to have been influenced by the Dutch master. His black-and-white photos of the American West have a distinctly Rembrandtesque tonal range.

Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams - The Tetons and the Snake River (1942)

As you can see, Rembrandt’s influence continues to inspire artists. Find out more about Rembrandt and this year’s series of exhibitions celebrating his life and times or see some of his greatest works for free with your City Card at the Rijksmuseum.