The life of a Dutch Master
As the most famous of the Dutch Masters, Rembrandt made an indelible impression on the Netherland’s artistic history. Born in Leiden in 1606, Rembrandt went on to spend most of his career in Amsterdam, a city that was experiencing the economic boom known as the Dutch Golden Age. The artist achieved great success as a portrait painter and it was not long before he and his wife Saskia moved into the stately home on Nieuwe Doelenstraat, which you can visit today as the Rembrandt House Museum. During his lifetime, the artist collected a great many paintings and precious artefacts, which are well documented as he was forced to sell them to avoid bankruptcy. He moved into a smaller rented house on the Rozengracht, where he died in 1669 and was buried at the Westerkerk.
Rembrandt’s artworks and style
During his career, Rembrandt completed an estimated 300 works, although the exact number is still debated by scholars. His subjects varied from portraits to landscape and narrative scenes from history and the bible. A key characteristic of a Rembrandt artwork is his dramatic rendition of light and shadow, using strong contrasts between darkness and highly saturated colours. The artist is also commended for his ability to portray personality and character through facial features and mannerisms. His success saw him take several students under his wing who were eager to learn the techniques of the accomplished artist. His students included Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck.
What was the Dutch Golden Age?
The period known as the Dutch Golden Age was a time of unprecedented economic prosperity. In the 17th century, the Netherlands’ shipbuilding and seafaring skills made it possible for explorers to travel the world and bring back exotic flavours, ceramics and other goods that could be traded for large profits. During this time, Amsterdam began the world’s first stock exchange and listed its first company, the Dutch East India Company (VOC), an extraordinary advancement for 1602. The city’s wealth gave rise to artists like Rembrandt and his contemporaries, whose works were commissioned by merchants. This era also marked a change in artistic tastes, as subject matters shifted towards seascapes, naval scenes and portraits that celebrated prominent figures, rather than biblical scenes.
Experience Rembrandt’s legacy in Amsterdam
Experience Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age in 2019 by visiting these commemorative exhibitions in the Amsterdam Area:
- Frans Hals and the Moderns, Frans Hals Museum (Haarlem), 12 October 2018-10 February 2019
- Rembrandt Privé, Amsterdam City Archives, 7 December 2018-7 April 2019
- Virtual Reality Journey ‘Dare to Discover’, National Maritime Museum, 1 January-31 December 2019
- Rembrandt’s Social Network, Rembrandt House Museum, 1 February-19 May 2019
- All the Rembrandts, Rijksmuseum, 15 February-10 June 2019
- Closer to Rembrandt, Museum the Cromhouthuis, Summer 2019
- Dutch Masters from the Israel Museum, Jewish Historical Museum, Autumn 2019-Winter 2020
- Rembrandt-Velázquez, Rijksmuseum, 11 October 2019-19 January 2020
Want to learn more about Rembrandt’s art and influence in Amsterdam? Read more about his major artworks and where to see them.