Rembrandt van Rijn’s house in Amsterdam is on the tourist circuit, and well worth a stop. The building is the original one where the artist lived and work, but the interior has been reconstructed to accommodate visitors. An adjoining building has further displays.
The nearby Rijksmuseum has some of Rembrandt’s greatest hits in paintings, but the house has a treasure trove of his etchings. During high season, I understand the etching process is demonstrated. The artist spent a good deal of time and effort becoming a fantastically skilled master of etching–an art form a little harder to appreciate than the big colorful paintings such as the one we know as “The Night Watch.” Like other Rembrandt canvases, that famous work draws big crowds over at the newly-refurbished Rijksmuseum.
In his many drawings and etchings, Rembrandt developed his skill with characterization and especially with light and shadow. He used himself as a subject over and over, often to study emotion and facial expression.
In this example, he shows himself laughing.
He used his wife Saskia as a frequent model, too. Here she is shown with the artist himself in a double portrait.
The house recreates the studio where Rembrandt worked. It has wonderful large windows with northern light. Here he mixed his paints and produced his masterpieces. For his portrait work, Biblical subjects, and historical paintings, he needed a lot of props. He had rooms full of interesting objects gathered from all over the world.
Sadly, the artist fell upon hard financial times for reasons I don’t really understand. He continued to draw, paint, and teach many students to the end of his life, but the big lucrative commissions dried up. Finally he went bankrupt and had to move to a smaller rented house. He was forced to sell the house for which he had paid a fortune in his heyday. To recreate the place, curators had only to refer to the detailed list of every single one of Rembrandt’s possessions. I’m sure they would be able to place most of these objects in Rembrandt’s many paintings. More casual visitors to the house can get a vivid idea of a great artist’s working methods, and a new appreciation for the art of etching.
Join me next time as I continue on a journey with new discoveries in the art and history of Europe!