Rembrandt van Rijn has all the traits of the greatest artist who had walked the face of the Earth. He was way ahead of his time. He evolved a unique, one-off style. And he was a hundred percent aware of his greatness.
His birth name was Rembrant Harmenszoon van Rijn, which means Rembrant, son of Harmen, from river Rhine. At the start of the career, he decided to sign paintings only by his first name.
He also added silent d to his signature. That was the first sign of his self-creation as the artist who is aware of his greatness. Although the reason for that tweak is unknown, word brandt in Dutch means burn or lit up.
This puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?
By his early twenties, Rembrandt’s face was already well known. Especially to buyers of his pictures. He has achieved that by sharing out his self-portrait art prints.
Well, these were mostly so-called tronies, etchings and paintings of himself making faces, exercising facial expressions to grasp bafflement, delight, reverie, etc. Funny selfies, so to speak. However, these prints were widely studied and launched artist into international fame.
By the way, that wide-eyed tronie – is it bafflement or amazement?
Coarseness for life
Great painters experiment with style. Rembrandt is now adored for his loose, casual, sometimes almost expressionist-like brushwork. That coarseness is his unquestionable quality.
But not always it was seen as a virtue. In his later years, while other Dutch portraitists started to flatter rich sitters with smoothing their postures and faces, Rembrandt was still offering that rough style of painting. Then he simply went out of fashion. And then he went bust…
Until his death, Rembrandt stayed loyal to his own artistic choices. His old age self-portraits are now regarded as the most powerful masterpieces. The honesty, the fierceness, the vision in them are remarkable.
Even when bankrupt and impoverished Rembrandt has not lost his pride. Stricken by the death of his wife, forced to sell his home and belongings, failing in health he still was capable of conveying that sense of self-respect in his paintings.
350 years after his death (he passed 4th October 1669) we celebrate the painter who has made the difference.