... Read more
In an age when Italy had a major influence on European art, Rembrandt van Rijn refused to fall into the old patterns and decided to go his own way and create his very own personal style and brand.
Rembrandt left his mark on the history of art in a way that can still be seen today – even those who have limited or no contact with art have heard of Rembrandt and his work. And let’s not forget he is one of the Netherlands’ top reasons for pride.
Rembrandt’s creativity was limitless, which is attested by the substantial legacy he left behind: 700 paintings, 1.000 drawings.
Rembrandt was permanently influenced by what he saw around him: his father’s mill in Leyda, the landscapes, Amsterdam, his Jewish neighborhood, the harbor, the stores etc. He was a realist painter and produced accurate depictions of his country, age, friends, himself, and of life in general. He transposed biblical legends into everyday countryside life, and found inspiration for his work in those closest to him, especially the poor Jewish people in his neighborhood; he painted faces exactly the way he saw them, capturing both the good and the bad, their worries and suffering, without flattering the nobility and disfavoring the poor.
Throughout his career, the painter stayed true to the purpose and motifs he had set initially. He placed truth and sincerity above harmony and beauty, and his portraits reveal the actual persons he had in front of him, while the landscapes render a highly personal dialogue between nature and human perception. He painted from within outward, first with his soul and only afterwards with his eyes; his work reflects his way of life and thought. In his paintings, we discover a meeting between the rational human and the human that thinks with his heart.
One of his work’s trademarks is light. He studied sunlight and candle light thoroughly, and thus came to paint „with light”. The French called him luministe, i.e. a painter who invented his very own lighting technique. This helps him better capture the human soul and suggests that the heart, in all its dimensions, must not and will not be hidden.
In biblical depictions, this light seems supernatural. It’s enough to look at some of his works, such as “The Angel Preventing Abraham from Sacrificing his Son, Isaac”, “The Angel Departing from the Family of Tobias”, “Presentation of Jesus in the Temple” etc.
The composition and design, coloring, people’s clothing and fabrics, the draping, all these depend on light and chiaroscuro. The artist discovered the chiaroscuro with Lasman, and it became Rembrandt’s technique of choice. His painting style was guided by the chiaroscuro and the effect he wanted to create. Moreover, his artistic growth can be tracked in the evolution of the technique.
Koloff says that Rembrandt “hides lanterns under his mantle that he then takes out all of a sudden and holds them up to our faces, which is blinding at first because of the powerful glow.” Chiaroscuro was the means to his end. He ws guided by the idea that “What is immersed in light is the echo of what is shrouded in darkness. What is shrouded in darkness accentuates in the invisible what is immersed in light.”
Another means Rembrandt often used was emphasizing a scene’s drama. This was rooted in his intention to leave a strong impression on viewers – they must become eye-witnesses and actually live the events themselves, which always sparks their interest.
It’s enough to simply glance at many of Rembrandt’s paintings (“Belshazzar’s Feast,” “The Blinding of Samson,” “The Prophet Balaam and his donkey”) to get right into the action, to ask questions, to fear for Samson’s fate, to wonder what punishment Belshazzar would be given.
Rembrandt learnt from Lasman how to build up the action according to theatre scenography principles. Thus, one of the most important details in his paintings is clothing, which is dependent on chiaroscuro and is always chosen in a way that allows light to be conveyed as expressively as possible.
He then studied this field assiduously, in an attempt to accurately depict the character of his time and surroundings. To this end, he drew his inspiration from the local Jewish population and their culture. Jesus and his followers are dressed in the modest mantles of Amsterdam’s Jewish people, while the patriarchs can be seen wearing sumptuous Oriental garments. Fabrics are chosen based on the effect they create when exposed to light, and draping in a way that renders the most interesting of shadows.
No one else has ever managed to find a more original way to capture light and to give it the attention it deserves. For what would life be without light?
Photo source: Wikipedia