Rembrandt van Rijn was a great master and innovator as a draughtsman, painter, and printmaker. Throughout his life, he created an outstanding body of work which ranges in style and subject matter; his portraits and self-portraits, landscapes, genre scenes, historical, allegorical, biblical and mythological scenes as well as animal studies are reflecting inconspicuous source of inspiration and immense craftsmanship.
In order to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death in 2019, Rijksmuseum decided to mark the beginnig of the celebration with the exhibition powerfully called All the Rembrandts which will feature twenty-two paintings, sixty drawings and more than three hundred of Rembrandt’s prints.
The Rijksmuseum’s collection of Rembrandt paintings is the largest in the world and it gathers works such as Self-Portrait as a Young Man, Self-Portrait as the Apostle Paul, as well as his grandiose masterpiece The Night Watch. When it comes to drawings, the collection encompasses works from all Rembrandt’s periods and styles. A great number of the artists’ prints also belong to a collection and some of them are really fragile and rarely displayed in public.
The idea behind this exhibition was to explore Rembrandt’s oeuvre in its entirety through three thematic segments. The first one will show the milestones of his career as with several self-portraits which reveal his growth as an artist. The second segment will be focused on environments and the people surrounding Rembrandt through his life (portraits of his mother, his family, and acquaintances, as well as portraits of the beggars, the actors, etc). The last segment will be devoted to Rembrandt's extraordinary storytelling ability, especially present in the historical and biblical compositions.
Apart from the paintings, this exhibition will feature some of his extremely rare drawings and prints, so it will offer to the audience a chance to dive into an amazing world of Rembrandt - the innovator, the storyteller, the human.
All the Rembrandts will be on display at Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam from 15 February until 10 June 2019.
Editors’ Tip: Rembrandt: His Life & Works in 500 Images
The renowned Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn was born in the 17th century at a time known as the Golden Age of Dutch Art. After leaving university to study painting, he worked on scenes of contemporary life in Amsterdam that soon demonstrated his mastery of light and shade, as well as his rich sense of colour. Quickly becoming established as a giant in the art world, he was equally skilled at producing etchings, portraits, self-portraits, landscapes and drawings.Although successful in his work, Rembrandt's personal life was marred by sadness; three of his four children died young, as did his wife, in 1642. In the same year, he painted The Night Watch, a brilliant work depicting city guardsmen and capturing the vitality, movement and personality of each person. Despite his enormous success, Rembrandt lived beyond his means and had to resort to auctioning his house at 4 Jodenbreestraat and its contents to pay his debts. However, he continued painting, and to this day still inspires younger artists and admirers all over the world.
Featured image: Rembrandt van Rijn, Landscape with a Stone Bridge, c. 1638. Purchased with the support of the Vereniging Rembrandt and A. Bredius, Amsterdam. All images courtesy Rijskmuseum.
The first Rembrandt masterpiece is his self-portrait and one of over forty painted during his lifetime. It was painted in 1661 and what is interesting is that this is the first and only self-portrait where the artist represented himself as a biblical figure of Apostle Paul holding his traditional attributes such as manuscript and the sword. In his typical manner of depicting biblical figures as ordinary people, Rembrandt displayed himself as the saint.
Featured image: Rembrandt van Rijn - Self-Portrait as the Apostle Paul, 1661. De Bruijn-van der Leeuw Bequest, Muri, Switzerland
The Old master was fascinated by the Middle East primarily because so many biblical stories he frequently painted took place there. The Middle-Eastern attire is present in numerous Rembrandt paintings, etchings, and drawings made during the 1930s which reflect the social and geopolitical circumstances of that period.
Namely, Dutch merchants reached the Middle East by the early seventeenth century, so foreigners wearing exotic clothes were a common sight in Amsterdam streets. It became fashionable to dress like that, so Rembrandt often portrayed himself wearing similar outfits. This painting of a man wearing the oriental dress was made in 1635; the bearded figure is illuminated by light streaming coming from the left accentuating his bejeweled turban and a fur-lined cape.
Featured image: Rembrandt van Rijn - Man in Oriental Dress, 1635. Gift of Mr and Mrs Kessler-Hülsmann, Kapelle op den Bosch
The following Rembrandt painting is called Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem and was produced in 1630. It depicts the Old Testament scene of a prophet Jeremiah in a state of despair propped by a large bookmarked Bible and traditional Jewish objects; he mourns the destruction of the holy city which he predicted.
The figure of the prophet was painted with extreme precision, while the scenery behind him is hazy. High level of drama is achieved with an interplay of light and shadow, while the position of the prophet resembles Michelangelo’s portrayal of the same prophet in his Sistine Chapel fresco.
Featured image: Rembrandt van Rijn - Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, 1630. Purchased with the support of private collectors, the Vereniging Rembrandt and the Stichting tot Bevordering van de Belangen van het Rijksmuseum
The following masterpiece is a representation of Isaac and Rebecca better known as the Jewish Bride. It was produced in-between 1665 and 1669 and the story tells it that the painting received its current name in the 19th century when an Amsterdam art collector identified concluded it displays a Jewish father giving the necklace to his daughter on her wedding day.
The identity of the couple is uncertain; apparently it is an image of a couple in love who wished to be represented as biblical figures such as Abraham and Sarah, Boaz and Ruth, or Isaac and Rebekah from the Old Testament (that is supported by a drawing Rembrandt made few years prior).
Featured image: Rembrandt van Rijn - Isaac and Rebecca, Known as 'The Jewish Bride', c. 1665 – c. 1669. On loan from the City of Amsterdam (A. van der Hoop Bequest)
Following up is 1662 painting The Sampling Officials also known as Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild. It is often described as the great painters last great collective portrait; it shows drapers who were selected to test the quality of cloth offered by the weavers for sale to members of their guild. They were signed to inspect the goods three times a week during their one year service. They used city and guild seals in order to determine four grades of quality. This portrait was commissioned by the guild where it was hung until 1771.
Featured image: Rembrandt van Rijn - The Wardens of the Amsterdam Drapers’ Guild, Known as ‘The Syndics’, 1662. On loan from the City of Amsterdam
The last Rembrandt painting on our list is perhaps one of the best-known masterpieces in entire art history, the famous Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq better known as The Night Watch. It is a military group portrait commissioned by Captain Banning Cocq and seventeen members of his Kloveniers (civic militia guards, produced in 1642 and it features two leading male figures and a female one along with a number of other figures of soldiers.
Featured image: Rembrandt van Rijn - Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, Known as the ‘Night Watch’, 1642. On loan from the City of Amsterdam.