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Rembrandt Paintings

It is thought that Rembrandt created over 600 paintings, as well as numerous etchings, and drawings throughout his lifetime. His earliest paintings show great influence from his teacher, Pieter Lastman. Similar to Lastman, Rembrandt created paintings with crowded arrangements and a forceful use of light and shadows. His favorite subjects were Biblical stories which he painted small in size and with vivid colors. He was devoted to showing lines as well as the colors of the people around him. He was also heavily influenced by Caravaggio and his use of chiaroscuro. Some of Rembrandt’s greatest effects in his paintings were his use of lighting. He didn’t paint with the light coming from outside the painting but instead painted as if his objects themselves were the source of the light.

In 1934, Rembrandt had already established himself as the leading portrait painter in Holland and had many commissions for portraits as well as for religious pieces. He was a well respected citizen and met and married Saskia van Uylenburgh. She modeled for him in many of his paintings and drawings. His paintings showed great attention to detail in the sitter’s features and the details of the clothing. He frequently painted figures in exotic costumes during this early period of his painting. He also focused on the background of the sitter, giving special attention to the room’s furnishings and interior. He painted zealously realistic images and details.

In 1642, Saskia died of tuberculosis and Rembrandt’s work began to change. His lively baroque style moved to a quieter more reflective approach using light and dark to portray powerful emotion and meaning. His work of the 1640s shows a greater influence from classicism with the quieter feeling. His landscape pieces of the time were more romantic with rolling hills and ancient ruins that sprang from his imagination instead of from a specific view. During this time period his commissions began to decline as did his financial situation.

The last 20 years of Rembrandt’s life were used to create his greatest masterpieces. He no longer cared for the minute details or the Baroque spectacles, or outward finery. His paintings instead focused on the mood and spiritual aspects of the subject. In The Return of the Prodigal Son Rembrandt portrays human compassion and graciousness. His brushstrokes became bolder and he applied the impasto technique with thick layers of paint on the canvas. In his earlier works Rembrandt would focus on the excitement of the story but in his later works the focus shifted instead to the psychological drama of the story.

Most artists paint a few self-portraits during their lifetime but throughout his lifetime Rembrandt painted over 50 self-portraits, a type of autobiography on canvas. They show a profound self-reflection of the man as he seemed to be studying himself through his art, a journey of self-discovery.