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Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn, most commonly known as Rembrandt, was one of the most captivating Baroque artists of the Dutch Golden Age of the eighteenth century. Born in the Netherlands in July 1606. The artist set his mark on the movement with innovative use of light and shadow. He became most known for his self-portraits – even casually inserting himself in many biblical artworks. Rembrandt was a master at painting as well as etching, a printing technique of metal engraving. At this time, the Academic views on printmaking were not as high as oil painting and etching was seen as a secondary art without much value, but Rembrandt used it to his advantage. The painter captured the essence of his Baroque style into his etchings, making his art accessible all the world in smaller prints – much more accessible to transport and faster to produce copies than oil painting.
As a young man, Rembrandt was dedicated to Latin school as well as having biblical studies. At fourteen years old, he was registered at the University of Leiden but decided to leave to deepen his knowledge of art and painting. In 1620, he began by learning his basic artistic skills with his mentor Jackob Isaaksz Swanenburgh – an artist known for his dark, hellish scenes of the underworld. Later on in Rembrandt’s career, he would show his influence on Swanenburgh’s approach to representing fire reflecting light. Rembrandt also studied under Pieter Lastman, a historical painter from Amsterdam who worked mainly with themes of the Bible, creating narratives in beautifully complex atmospheres.
At around 1625, the artist opened a studio in Leiden with Jan Lievens, where he would produce his work and take pupils as well. Rembrandt’s work at this time reflected the influence of his former master, Lastman, and would often deconstruct his paintings, regroup and reassemble into a new artwork – a technique he taught his students. During this period, the artist focused on rich details on small canvases telling stories, mostly biblical. Rembrandt concluded his first etching in 1626, which would impulse him into international fame as he applied to this technique the same level of excellence he achieved in his oil paintings. At the end of the 1620s, he was committed to his innovative use of dramatic lighting – creating figures emerging from the shadows.
In 1631, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam after he bonded with an entrepreneur who was interested in his work. During the next five years living in the Dutch country, the painter produced mostly large-scale scenes of Greek mythology or Biblical subjects, as well as commissioned portraits – all with his dramatic use of light and dark. The Night Watch is one of Rembrandt’s most memorable work – a commissioned painting of immense proportions completed in 1642. This piece is a beautiful example of how the artist was able to transform a simple military portrait commission into an allegoric masterpiece filled with details. The period following this work was marked by a downfall in Rembrandt’s career and production, although the reasons are not clear to this day.