Rembrandt's works and influence in photography

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Ritratto di Rembrandt Ritratto di Rembrandt

In this article I want to talk about the portrait photography and the use of light for the illumination of the subject, in particular of the lighting at Rembrandt from the name of the famous Dutch painter of the seventeenth century. Yes, because contrary to what one might think the Rembrandt methodology is not an invention of some famous photographer, but inspired by how the Dutch painter used the light and dark (light effects) in his paintings.

Before going into the technique used to take our pictures, I introduce you a brief biography of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, this is his full name, so that it helps us to understand who he was and how to use his qualities in photography.

Short biography

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born on 15 July 1606 in Leiden (Holland), the eighth child of nine brothers.

At the age of 14 nni he enrolled in the faculty of letters of his city, on the wish of his father who wanted him to rise from the rank of artisanal class, the university that the young Rembrandt only attended for a short time preferring to university studies to attend the study of painter Isaaksz van Swanenburg who already knows the masterpieces of Italian artists.

In the seventeenth century painting in Europe was also affirmed by the revolutionary art of Caravaggio, who in his works effects with a very personal use of the lights managed to obtain surprising realistic technical effects that the young Rembrandt studies and will treasure in his works.

These are the years in which the Netherlands, which was independent of the Sapgnoli, has a strong economic, humanistic and cultural development. The city of Leiden, birthplace of the painter, became one of the most important centers of the Netherlands, thanks also to the push of the university. Among the various cultural activities there is an important pictorial school second only to that of Utrecht whose leading artist was Luca da Leida; an important point of reference for the first pictorial experiences of Rembrandt.

After a short apprenticeship, Rembrandt is associated with the same age Jan Lievens, another successful painter. The skills of the two painters increase their fame that little by little spreads in the environments of the cultured bourgeoisie, that part of society that likes to be portrayed in a realistic and recognizable way.

In 1631, shortly after the death of his father. Rembrandt in fact leaves the city of Leiden and moved to Amsterdam will continue his pictorial training following the lessons of Pieter Lastman, another famous artist of the place. Rembrandt, carefully studies Lastman's paintings and learns the precision and use of typically Italian color, in a short time the student will surpass the teacher. The thing does not go unnoticed by wealthy bourgeois connoisseurs and in a short time allows him to access the educated environments of high society where he will know his future wife (1634) Saskia, nephew of a rich art dealer. We are in the years ranging from 1634 to 1642, period in which Rembrandt makes his masterpieces, ranging from the famous "Lesson of anatomy of Dr. Tulp" to the "Passion of Christ". After the death of his mother and a short distance away from his wife, Rembrandt closes in on himself and a slow decline begins.

From now on, Rembrandt van Rijn also surrounds himself with a large group of disciples, for whom he decides to build a school "from scratch". But starting from the seventies of the seventeenth century, its economic and family collapse also began, due, on the one hand, to the inadequate management of finances and, on the other, to the breaking down of real emotional dramas. In 1640 his mother died and shortly thereafter also his beloved wife. Only and disconsolate, he withdraws into painting until he meets Geertge Dirck, the ruler of his son Tito, with whom he undertook an intense relationship. The latter, however, for its scandalous conduct undergoes a trial that results in a condemnation in the house of correction. Not surprisingly, in this period the production of Rembrandt reveals extreme suffering: in the self-portraits appears a man aged and devoid of vitality.

When this love affair ends, he falls in love with Hendrickje Stoffels, with whom he first cohabits and is late to marry. Together they will have two children.

In 1654 one of his most famous paintings dates back to "Betsabea with the letter of David".

Later, in 1657 Rembrandt lost all his property and was forced to move into a modest house. After 1660, however, manages to establish itself again on the European scene: he paints the "Mayors of drappieri" and the "Oath of the Batavi", works characterized by an extreme mastery of colors and brushstroke.

A ray of light returns to illuminate the life of the artist when his son Tito marries a distant relative of Saskia: personal events enter the works of the painter and give them a remarkable humanity. It is no coincidence that Rembrandt in the "Presentation to the Temple" instilled the extreme sweetness of old Simeonwho, like him, has now become grandfather. In the last years Rembrandt decided to paint only for himself, reaching very high results. He died on October 4, 1669 in Amsterdam at the age of 63. Continue .... In the next article we will analyze the techniques used by the Dutch painter in his works and how these can be applied to the art of photography.

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