Beginnings and background
Rembrandt was actually born and raised in Leiden and only moved to Amsterdam in around 1631, when in his 20s. It’s likely the he frequently travelled between the two cities, as Amsterdam was considerably larger and wealthier – probably why he decided to settle in the city permanently. Rembrandt also met his wife Saskia in Amsterdam, and his son Titus was born here, further forging Rembrandt’s bond with the city. It was during his early years in Amsterdam that he began painting grand mythical and biblical themes.
Rembrandt is considered by many to be the greatest painter of the Dutch Golden Age. He had a breathtaking ability to capture light and dark in his paintings, and was unrivalled as a draughtsman and etcher. A great storyteller of the art world, Rembrandt was able to depict personalities and moods through facial expressions and poses.
The Night Watch (1642) photo via the Rijksmuseum
In January 1639, Rembrandt bought a house in the Breestraat (now the Jodenbreestraat), which is now the Rembrandt House Museum. Here you can visit Rembrandt's 17th-century home and studio. Great care has been taken to restore the house to how it was in Rembrandt's time, using his own drawings and an inventory compiled in 1656 (when Rembrandt went bankrupt). The museum is also home to a superb permanent display of Rembrandt’s etchings and hosts regular temporary exhibitions.
Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam
See Rembrandt's art in Amsterdam
Rembrandt’s work is on display in many of the leading art galleries around the world. The most notable collection of Rembrandt's work in the Netherlands is at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, where you can see works including De Nachtwacht (The Night Watch) and Het Joodse Bruidje (The Jewish Bride). De Nachtwacht was actually painted on the first floor of what is now the NH Doelen hotel, the oldest hotel in Amsterdam.
Syndics of the Drapers' Guild (1662) photo via the Rijksmuseum
Rembrandt's influence on the city
Rembrandtplein was originally known as the Botermarkt (Butter Market) and was established in 1668. These days it's a buzzing nightlife centre with various hotels, clubs and cafes. Watching over all the proceedings is a cast iron statue of Rembrandt, which has him standing in a casual pose.
Rembrandt’s wife Saskia van Uylenburgh died in 1642, and her grave can be seen in the floor of Amsterdam’s Oude Kerk. Rembrandt actually sold Saskia's grave in 1662 in order to be able to pay for the burial of Hendrickje Stoffels, his long-term girlfriend, in a rented grave elsewhere. To circumnavigate creditors after his bankruptcy, Rembrandt worked for Hendrickje and his son Titus from a modest rented house which once stood at 184 Rozengracht. It was here that he died on 4 October 1669.
Rembrandt statue on Rembrandtplein