Saturday, July 15, 2006

Rembrandt's 400th

Four hundred years ago today in the Dutch city of Leiden, Rembrandt van Rijn, one of the most enduring and fascinating western artists, was born.

The prolific Rembrandt produced nearly 3,000 paintings etchings,and scketches. Of these, nearly a hundred were self portraits, giving us an accurate picture of how he looked, how fashions changed and how his many troubles and tangled affairs wearied him. Biblical themes often inspired his works and many editions of the Bible use his paintings as illustrations. It is hard to escape his influence.

Most of us remember Rembrandt from our first introductions to art in grade school. He was often used as an example of the use of chiaroscuro, using contrasts of light and shadow to create depth and a range of emotions in his figures. Rich in detail, bold in strokes, dark yet expressive, his paintings still inspire and impress today.

Like Mozart, he was renowned in his day and was very successful financially. However, he lived beyond his means and died after becoming bankrupt and outliving his wife and son. Only a daughter born to his mistress survived him.

Festivals and exhibitions and even a new opera on his life are part of the celebrations in his native Holland. In his birthplace of Leiden, people in period dress led a torch-lit procession to the statue of Rembrandt, hung a garland around the statue's neck and toasted his memory. Let me join in the toast Rembrandt Van Rijn. Happy Birthday!

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