Some of Rembrandt’s Greatest Works
Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn, born July 15th, 1606 in Leiden, Netherlands, is perhaps the best known Dutch painter of the 17th century. In his lifetime, he created approximately 600 paintings, 300 etchings and 1, 400 drawings. He was a prolific artist who mastered the fine art of chiaroscuro. Although it is difficult to define one Rembrandt painting as better than another, several of his works have reached immortal fame. These are some of his universally transcending works.
The Return of the Prodigal Son (1662)
This piece is the most monumental of Rembrandt’s paintings and stands above the achievements of all other Baroque artists of the time in its evocation of mood and human tenderness. Rembrandt painted this masterpiece towards the end of his career, but it is obvious that his skill in realism had not faded. Critics of this piece remark that age had only brought Rembrandt a heightened sense of psychological and spiritual insight. The artist’s use of expressive lighting and coloring in this painting along with the most simple of settings help the audience to feel the full impact of the event. Wanting to depict a tired and defeated son returning home to his father, Rembrandt compassionately painted the outstretched arms of a man happy to see his son return to him. The painting is symbolic of homecoming and illuminates the human willingness to offer shelter to those who have experienced darkness.
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp (1632)
This famous Rembrandt painting depicts a doctor named Tulp demonstrating an autopsy to several men who are gathered around him. The focal point of the painting is the patient. Rembrandt utilized his skill in using colors strategically to draw attention to the body lying on the table and to significant areas. Although the painting depicts the study of death, Rembrandt was careful to add a heightened sense of emotionalism and sensitivity to a scene that could be otherwise cold and unfeeling.
The Night Watch (1642)
Probably the most famous and controversial of all the Rembrandt paintings is The Night Watch. Critics of the painting charged that the somber and moody lighting suggested mysteries hiding in the piece. The title of the painting actually came about due to the rather dark and subdued lighting that Rembrandt chose to use. Originally, the painting had been titled Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch, but the title was later changed. In this work, Rembrandt uses the technique of chiaroscuro to place the captain wearing black and the lieutenant wearing yellow in the foreground of the painting. It had a dramatic effect, and in fact, Rembrandt paintings are recognized for this art style. The mood in the painting is a celebratory one, but instead of assembling his cast of characters all together, Rembrandt chose instead to depict each man standing alone, as if silently absorbed in their own thoughts.