When people think of famous Dutch painters, Rembrandt van Rijn comes up more often than any other. He had an immeasurable impact on culture and art throughout Europe in the 17th century and was one of the top portrait painters. In addition to painting, he was a successful printmaker, inventor, draughtsman, and sculptor.
Rembrandt’s work has been widely celebrated and commended throughout the centuries, but there are some fun facts about Rembrandt’s life that might surprise you. Here are five interesting facts about Rembrandt van Rijn that will surely spice up your next visit to Amsterdam’s art scene and make you love him even more!
In addition to painting, Rembrandt Van Rijn was also an avid printmaker. He created more than 120 etchings and woodcuts and 150 drawings for prints. He produced most of these in his late 20s and early 30s when he was getting started as a professional artist. Unlike many artists of his time, he didn’t come from a family of artisans; many professionals were self-trained and spent years learning their craft from other artists before establishing themselves professionally.
Printmaking proved to be good training for Rembrandt because it allowed him to work on several elements at once: sketching out design ideas, preparing drawings, and making engravings.
It provided valuable practice with various techniques, especially intaglio (in which images are incised into metal or wood surfaces) and drypoint (lines scratched into the metal surface are filled with ink). These skills helped him develop his characteristically richly detailed and textured style.
It’s not uncommon for people in history to be hit with a series of unfortunate events, but Rembrandt had more than his fair share.
Though he is known for his bold brush strokes and vivid paintings, Rembrandt’s life was full of personal tragedy. In 1642, his beloved wife Saskia died shortly after giving birth to their fourth child, Titus. Not only did he lose his wife Saskia, but also three of his children.
Rembrandt’s lover Hendrickje Stoffels died in 1663. While they were never married and were permitted only one daughter together, they had lived together for at least 16 years. Rembrandt’s son Titus died in 1668, leaving behind a baby daughter.
He lost many loved ones throughout his life, leaving him in deep grief until he died himself in 1669 at age 63. Yet, even though the tragedies of the 1660s cast a somber shadow over his life, Rembrandt continued to produce important works of art for his followers.
Despite these tragic challenges, Rembrandt persevered in his art to become one of history’s most celebrated painters. That persistence makes him so admirable—and his story so interesting.
Rembrandt created at least eighty self-portraits, more than anyone else before him or since. Not much is known about why he painted so many of himself, but there are a few theories.
An incredible art historian Ernst van de Wetering, who has been studying Rembrandt’s work for many years, believes that these self-portraits were not just painted to show off his talent and skills. They also helped him recognize his own mistakes.
His self-portraits show him in various stages of life, from his early years as a young man to later on in life when he lost much of his hair and gained weight. There is something different about his portrait, and you’ll never see a body double. Even though all of these paintings are self-portraits, they display differing emotions and depict Rembrandt in many states of mind.
Some portray him as sad or angry, while others feature him content or surprised by what fate has brought him. Although intimate and revealing, some people think Rembrandt painted his self-portraits to sell them.
It was typical for Dutch painters to travel to Italy to study and perfect their skills. But Rembrandt never left his beloved Amsterdam. This made it easier for him to explore local painting techniques and develop his style, limiting his network and ability to learn new art forms from other countries.
Luckily, that doesn’t seem to have held him back! His prints, however, traveled throughout Europe, making him famous during the time. As a result, Rembrandt created some of the most universally recognized art and significantly impacted his own life and those who followed him.
We think of artists as globe-trotters, but while other artists of his time moved around to find inspiration, paint, and patrons, Rembrandt did not stray too far from Amsterdam. He worked in various studio spaces in and around Amsterdam until his death.
Did you know that in 1656, Rembrandt became so poor he was forced to declare bankruptcy? His signature painting, The Night Watch (1642), brought him so much fame and recognition that he stopped producing work three years later. He spent most of his earnings on excesses such as fancy clothes and a lavish lifestyle during that time.
A common fate for many artists, to be sure, but a particularly dark turn for Rembrandt, who was constantly in debt. However, his creditors didn’t have him thrown in prison because of his fame as an artist and one of Amsterdam’s cultural treasures.
He would spend it all on self-indulgences like expensive wines and art supplies. Finally, after years of living in high style and spending more than he earned, he declared bankruptcy during a rough patch in his career when creditors were coming after him for money owed.
Despite being one of history’s most famous painters, Rembrandt was buried in an unmarked grave.
There’s no denying the greatness of Rembrandt van Rijn, who was born in 1606 and died at the age of 63 in 1669. The Dutch painter has been hailed as the greatest artist of the 17th century. And his works continue to be studied by art historians to this day.