“Choose only one master — Nature.”
Rembrandt van Rijn was born on this day in Leiden, the Netherlands in 1606. Today is the 406th anniversary of his birth.
His father, a miller, wanted his son to be an educated man and sent Rembrandt to the University of Leiden. There he learned science and anatomy, but he didn’t stay long. He wanted to paint. He learned about light, form and composition from by studying the masters of Renaissance art like Da Vinci and Caravaggio. In 1630 he moved to Amsterdam and set up a studio painting portraits for individuals and for local guilds.
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolas Tulp as an important early work. With its dark background and focus of light Rembrandt tells a story in the painting. It isn’t just a group of men sitting around having their picture painted. This is a narrative slice of action.
His reputation as a painter grew he established himself as in society. He married the beautiful and rich Saskia van Uylenburgh and the couple moved into an expensive house on the good side of town. Domestic bliss was not long lived however as the couple lost their first three children in infancy. The fourth child, Titus, survived, but Saskia died the next year. It seemed that life followed art for Rembrandt and every bright spot on his personal canvass had and equal patch of darkness.
In 1642 he painted The Night Watch. It was almost 12 feet by 14.5 feet and was his masterpiece. Another guild painting, this one was commissioned by the Captain and guard of the Kloveniers (the civic guard). He was paid 1,600 guilders for the work.