What Was Rembrandt Van Rijn Best Known For?

Rembrandt Van Rijn

Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn (1606-1669), or simply ‘Rembrandt’ as he is better known, was an artist and painter from the Netherlands. He is known as one of the greatest painters in history and held as the most significant of all the Dutch painters active during the ‘Dutch Golden Age.’

With works ranging from simple etchings to solemn portraits to grandiose scenes of epic proportions, all of which contained an air of realism seldom seen and rarely recreated since. No doubt that he’s considered a very productive artist with over 700 completed works.

The following article examines that work to see just what made the ‘Dutch Master’ so profound and why he has been aptly dubbed as the most outstanding visual narrator of all time.

Portraits of Perfection

Perhaps Rembrandt’s most poignant works are the portfolios of portraits he painted and sketched over his lifetime. This included many self-portraits, as seen in the picture above, which Van Rijn is said to have constructed by looking at himself in a mirror. It must have been a painstaking and daunting undertaking.

He created over 40 self-portraits throughout his life and, as a result, grants us great perspective into the maturation and mood of the man as both his skill and soul developed. In addition, his portraits have been praised for their realism, whereas many works of this kind are ‘airbrushed,’ Van Rijn would leave in every wrinkle, crevasse, and expression of worry.

Other than producing self-portraits, Rembrandt also painted many other various portraits. This included portraits of prevalent figures of the time, famous figures throughout history such as Aristotle and Homer, biblical characters, and fellow men and women of all backgrounds and kinds.

With the photograph not being invented until centuries later, a portrait was the closest one could come to owning a picture of oneself, and there was no one better at the craft than Rembrandt Van Rijn.

The Bible Brought to Life

Among the Dutch painter’s extensive collection of work, none are more prolific or plentiful than the epic paintings of various biblical scenes. Numbering over 300 works on the topic, including sketches and etchings, the Bible was undoubtedly a significant inspiration for the motivated artist.

As well as being one of the greatest biblical painters, Rembrandt has also been praised as one of its greatest interpreters. More so than just painting the scene, Rembrandt was also clearly concerned with capturing the story’s message and the characters’ emotions.

Just as in the picture above, titled “Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” which depicts the scene of Jesus calming the waters, the gripping action and compelling emotion of the characters themselves give the work its shine.

Indeed, the Bible profoundly influenced the artist’s work and life. He was one of the artists of the time to have a primary focus on the book and one of the greatest of all time in transmitting its timeless messages.

Understanding the Human Condition

Perhaps Rembrandt’s most outstanding achievement, beyond the many beautiful paintings and portraits, embodies human emotions captured therein about the broad spectrum of plights and pleasures of the human condition itself.

In almost every one of his works, including his sketches and depictions of the scenery, the overwhelming emotion comes through more than anything else. Encapsulated within and the uncanny sense it invokes in the viewer.

Take the picture above as a prime example. Titled “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” it depicts another scene from the Bible where the wasteful, wanton son returns home in despair after wasting his inheritance.

The son’s genuine repentance shines through the father’s real tenderness and forgiveness. But, furthermore, you can also deduce the emotions of embarrassment, judgment, and shame of the other’s presence for the young man’s folly.

Rembrandt himself was particularly moved by this story and completed many works on the subject, including a self-portrait. This is one of Rembrandt’s final paintings and wonderfully showcases his mastery and distinct style. It has also been widely acknowledged as one of the greatest paintings.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, Rembrandt was undoubtedly one of the greatest ever to put a brush to paper. His ability to embody and empathize with human emotion is like nothing quite seen before, after, or otherwise. More importantly, though, Rembrandt’s arts transcend the realm of mere thinking and seeing, and reside in the planes of intuition and deep feeling, for this is the true goal of any artist, if they are conscious of it or not. Rembrandt’s legacy will go down in history as truly one of a kind and one above compare.


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