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Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn was born on July 15, 1606, in Leiden. At age 14, he enrolled at the University of Leiden; when the curriculum failed to stir his interest, he left the university to study art. Rembrandt studied with renowned history painter Pieter Lastman in 1624, and then began painting and teaching others in his hometown. In 1631, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam—Lastman’s hometown—and married Saskia van Uylenburgh, the cousin of a prominent art dealer in the area. Van Uylenburgh’s connections to wealthy patrons allowed Rembrandt access to the rich elite, and he painted many commissioned portraits. His paintings at the time were frequently grounded in mythology and religion—often Biblical or Christian themes. Rembrandt produced at least 65 paintings in the 1630s alone.
Rembrandt’s paintings were centered on individuals, objects, and the world around him. He was deeply connected to his Christian faith, and his devotion inspired many historical and Biblical paintings and landscapes. His paintings are revered for their ability to capture snapshots of human existence in a natural yet unique manner, using light and texture to enhance the emotional depth of his subjects. Rembrandt was able to balance the extent of human feeling with an element of realism that appealed to Dutch audiences. Rembrandt’s work was extremely popular during the Dutch Golden Age, a key period of achievement in Holland, and he is considered the greatest artist of that time period.
Unfortunately, when the Dutch taste in art began to shift, Rembrandt’s paintings lost favor. Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck ushered in a new era of grace and elegance, and Rembrandt refused to compromise his own art style to adjust to the popularity of a new method. In 1656, Rembrandt declared bankruptcy and had to sell many of his possessions—several of them items he had collected from travels around the world. He died in 1669 and was buried in an unknown, unmarked grave in a church, identified as a poor man. While the end of Rembrandt’s life was not reflective of his talents as an artist, his vision was revived several years later by future artists who followed his example. German and Venetian painters adopted Rembrandt’s art style in the 18th century and a large-scale Rembrandt revival was brought on in the 19th century by European and American painters. His commitment to his craft and art style remained relevant even in the years following the Golden Age.