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Rembrandt van Ryn Dutch Master painter

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Rembrandt van Rijn was born in the city of Leiden. Rembrandt became a pupil of Swanenburch and Lastman, but his great knowledge of nature and his craft came largely from the direct study of the model. Settled at Amsterdam, he quickly rose to fame, had a large following of pupils, and his influence was felt through all Dutch painting. The portrait was emphatically his strongest work. The many-figured group he was not always successful in composing or lighting.

His method of work rather fitted him for the portrait and unfitted him for the large historical piece. He built up the importance of certain features by dragging down all other features. This was largely shown in his handling of illumination. Strong in a few high lights on cheek, chin, or white linen, the rest of the picture was submerged in shadow, under which color was unmercifully sacrificed. This was not the best method for a large, many-figured piece, but was singularly well suited to the portrait. It produced strength by contrast. "Forced" it was undoubtedly, and not always true to nature, yet nevertheless most potent in Rembrandt's hands. He was an arbitrary though perfect master of light-and-shade, and unusually effective in luminous and transparent shadows. In color he was again arbitrary but forcible and harmonious. In brush-work he was at times labored, but almost always effective.

Mentally he was a man keen to observe, assimilate, and express his impressions in a few simple truths. His conception was localized with his own people and time (he never built up the imaginary or followed Italy), and yet into types taken from the streets and shops of Amsterdam he infused the very largest humanity through his inherent sympathy with man. Dramatic, even tragic, he was; yet this was not so apparent in vehement action as in passionate expression. He had a powerful way of striking universal truths through the human face, the turned head, bent body, or outstretched hand. His people have character, dignity, and a pervading feeling that they are the great types of the Dutch people of substantial physique, slow in thought and impulse, yet capable of feeling, comprehending, enjoying, suffering.

His landscapes, again, were a synthesis of all landscapes, a grouping of the great truths of light, air, shadow, space. Whatever he turned his hand to was treated with that breadth of view that overlooked the little and grasped the great. He painted many subjects. His earliest work dates from 1627, and is a little hard and sharp in detail and cold in coloring. After 1654 he grew broader in handling and warmer in tone, running to golden browns, and, toward the end of his career, to rather hot tones. His life was embittered by many misfortunes, but these never seem to have affected his art except to deepen it. He painted on to the last, convinced that his own view was the true one, and producing works that rank second to none in the history of painting.