The Artist Birthday Series

Rembrandt van Rijn

Today’s Artist Birthday: Rembrandt van Rijn

Rembrandt van Rijn (15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669) was a 17th century painter and etcher whose work came to dominate what has since been named the Dutch Golden Age. One of the most revered artists of all time, Rembrandt’s greatest creative triumphs are seen in his portraits of his contemporaries, illustrations of biblical scenes and self-portraits as well as his innovative etchings and use of shadow and light.

Self portrait, created between 1665-69
Self portrait, created between 1665-69

Born in Leiden, Netherlands in 1606, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn attended elementary school from 1612 to 1616 and then attended the Latin School in Leiden, where he partook in biblical studies and lessons on the classics. It is unclear whether Rembrandt completed his studies at the Latin School, but one account claims that he was removed from school early and sent to be trained as a painter at his own request.

Self portrait, as a young man, 1628
Self portrait, as a young man, 1628

From 1620 to either 1624 or 1625, Rembrandt trained as an artist under two masters. His first was painter Jacob van Swanenburgh (1571–1638), with whom he studied for about three years. Under van Swanenburgh, Rembrandt would have learned basic artistic skills. Van Swanenburgh specialized in scenes of hell and the underworld, and his ability to paint fire and the way its light reflects on surrounding objects was likely an influence on Rembrandt’s later work. Rembrandt’s second teacher was Amsterdam’s Pieter Lastman (1583–1633), who was a well-known history painter and likely helped Rembrandt master the genre, which included placing figures from biblical, historical and allegorical scenes in complex settings.

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