Rembrandt is a Dutch artist who has lived in a period that historians call the Dutch Golden Age. He was born on 15 July 1606 and died on 4 October 1669. He is mostly known for his self-portraits and paintings that carry Biblical themes.
His primary subjects are portraiture, landscape, and narrative painting. Besides from oil painting, his etchings are very famous.
His drawings were mainly made to record what he saw or felt, which sometimes evolved into his paintings; these are mostly unfinished. Today, there are over 1400 drawings that are said to be his; however, only 25 of these have his signature. Experts estimate the dates of Rembrandt's drawings by studying his style the way he used his favorite media: red and black chalk, ink and quill or reed pen, brush and washes.
His drawings give an idea of his unmatched range, depth, and human sympathy. It includes self-portraits, sketches of the activities on Amsterdam’s streets, studies of Jewish types, studies of landscape around Amsterdam, drawings from classical mythology, ancient history, and most importantly, narrations of the Bible. It is reported that the largest group depicts Biblical themes.
The Mill on the ‘Het Blauwhoofd’
145 x 115 mm.
Oil on canvas.
87.6 × 105.6 cm (34.5 × 41.6 in)
“The Mill on the ‘Het Blauwhoofd’” (drawing) and “The Mill” (oil painting) show how some themes that occur in his sketches have recurred in his paintings. In comparison to “The Mill”, which has taken him 3 years to complete, “The Mill on the ‘Het Blauwhoofd’” resembles a fairly quick sketch. We don’t see the details of the sky and the focus is mainly on the mill.
A Woman Sleeping c. 1655 The British Museum, London
In many of his drawings, he has used descriptive lines, and the drawings are not in detail; we can only see the form of a woman. There is very little shading, only when necessary.
Self Portrait with a Cap, openmouthed. 1630 (etching, 41 41 mm)
Rembrandt had approximately 290 plates and 79 or Rembrandt’s original plates are still in existence. None of these plates are larger than 21 by 18 inches. During his lifetime, Rembrandt was famous for his etchings, rather than paintings. Self Portrait with a Cap, openmouthed is an example of his etchings. Here, we can see that he has used a great number of lines, in comparison to the minimal lines that he has used in most of his drawings.
138 x 204 mm.
Animals are also in many of his sketches and drawings. In this drawing, we can see that the lion’s face is very detailed when compared to his drawings of humans. Also, he has used darker lines to define the lion’s form; whereas in his drawings of humans the colors of his lines do not differ as much from each other.
I had previously known Rembrandt as a painter; I knew his famous oil paintings, which are mostly on canvas. However, I did not know that he had also produced etchings and drawings as well. Choosing him made me have a deeper understanding of his artistic abilities and interests.
Longstreet, S. (Ed. 1). (1963). Drawings of Rembrandt. New York, NY: Borden Publishing Company
(2007). Rembrandt Drawings: 116 Masterpieces in Original Color. NY: Dover Publications