Painting is one of the oldest art practice known to man. From the etchings along the cave walls to the abstract paintings of today, one can say that humans have a liking for the aesthetics of art. In the earlier periods, painting is considered as a profession wherein many people need especially before the dawn of photography. It is still a profession until now and many still enjoy a healthy profit out of it. However, most of these artists think that the monetary value of their art only comes as a bonus feature of their work. It is primarily something that they enjoy doing and gives them the satisfaction to continue painting.
We all know the famous artists of the Renaissance, especially with the works of Leonardo da Vinci being the ever famous painter of that time. Even people who are not into the painting scene know about his works especially the Mona Lisa, which is etched in popular culture. Many others are also well-known, primarily the Italian artists because of their contributions to the revival of learning. However, many forget that most of the famous artists of that time also came from other countries. Let us take a look at one of the most famous Dutch painter, Rembrant Harmenszoon van Rijn also known as Rembrandt. (See his work: https://www.rembrandthuis.nl/en/rembrandt-2/rembrandt-the-artist/most-important-works/the-anatomy-lesson-of-dr-nicolaes-tulp/)
Although it was stated that he never left The Netherlands, Rembrandt’s style was reminiscent of the Baroque style that was very prevalent throughout Europe during this time. Baroque, as an artistic movement, uses most of the primary colors (red, blue and yellow) in very close proximity. Unlike the Renaissance’s even lighting, they use the contrast between light and dark to focus more on the subjects of the painting. Emotions and hidden meaning also play a substantial role in the Baroque style wherein most of the subjects feature a certain period of drama, tragedy and comedy. With this, they are trying to move away from the calm and pristine Renaissance period. (To learn more about the Baroque style, click here.)
Rembrandt’s style was clearly Baroque, and most of his works feature Christian images. As he was born of a Dutch Reformation father and Roman Catholic Mother, it is not a surprise although it was said that he never actually strictly practiced any religion at all. He also stated that his art was born of the “greatest and most natural movement or emotion”. This can be interpreted in many ways and his works are always a mixture of the natural and supernatural worlds. Most of Rembrandt paintings also include historical events. He was also very prolific in his self-portraits, and even adds himself in some of his own paintings. He was also often praised for his narrative paintings: artworks that tell a story in the greatest detail and emotional impact.
Here are some of his works:
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp
During those times, science as a part of the educational system was still fairly young along with medicine. Usually, most of the lectures were considered as an event like the anatomy lectures. There is a reason why medical laboratories like this in the present time are called “theaters”. Anyway, because these were very important events, a painter is usually commissioned to do it. It was 26 year old Rembrandt who was chosen at the time. Most of the participants or observers, including Dr. Nicolaes Tulip, paid a huge sum just to be included in the painting. This was also mentioned to be a “staged” lecture, because actual anatomy lectures during that time involves opening the dead body. This masterpiece now resides in Mauritshuis, The Hague.
The Night Watch
This painting is one of the most well-known works included in the Amsterdam Museum’s collection. A rather large painting, it shows the marching of the militia under Capt Frans Banning Cocq. It was also commissioned by the captain as it was the custom of the time. Its fame, however, is attributed to the masterful manipulation of light and shadow (called tenebrism). As one can see in the painting, the two main people (namely the captain and his lieutenant) is illuminated to highlight their importance as well as lead the observer to the other members of the militia. It is considered as one of the most important paintings of the Dutch Golden Age. One can see it in its full glory in Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.