Rembrandt

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Choose only one master — Nature.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (15 July 16064 October 1669) was a Dutch painter and etcher, generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in history.

Quotes of Rembrandt[edit]

In these two paintings the greatest and most innate emotion has been expressed, which is also the main reason why they have taken so long to execute.
Try to put well in practice what you already know; and in so doing, you will in good time, discover the hidden things which you now inquire about.
A painting is finished when the artist says it is finished.
  • This is portrayed after my wife when she was 21 years old, the third day after we were betrothed on the 8th of June 1633
    • under a drawing of Saskia, 1633; as quoted in Rembrandt: The Painter at Work, by w:Ernst van de Wetering, Amsterdam University Press, 1997, p. 47
    • the short text is written at the bottom of a portrait - a drawing of his future wife Saskia Uylenburgh, Rembrandt did in silverpoint on prepared vellum
  • ...that I am very diligently engaged in proficiently completing the three Passion paintings which his Excellency has personally commissioned me [to do]: an Entombment, a Resurrection, and an Ascension of Christ... ...Of the above three, one has been completed, namely Christ's Ascension to Heaven, and the other two are more than half-finished... ...as a token of my readiness to serve you with my favor, I cannot refrain from presenting you, [dear] Sir, my latest work. I trust that you most graciously will accept it in addition to my greetings... ...reside [on] Nieuwe Doelstraat [Amsterdam], Feb. 1636
  • original Dutch text, written by Rembrandt: ...dat ick seer naerstich / doende ben met die drie passij stucken voorts / met bequamheijt aftemaeken die sijn excellencij / my selfs heeft geordijneert, een grafleg/ugl/ ende een Verrijsenis en een Hemelvaert / Chrisstij. / De selvijge ackoordeeren met / opdoening en afdoeningen vant Chruijs Chrisstij. / Van welken drie vornomden / stuckens een van opgemaekt is daer / Chrisstus ten Heemel opvaert ende / die ander twee [schilderijen] ruym half gedaen sijn... ...En ken oock niet naerlaeten volgens mijn dienstwillijgen / gunst mijn heer te vereeren van mijn jonsten / werck vertrouwenden dat mij ten bessten sal / afgenoomen werder neffens mijne groeteenissen... ...[wonend] niuwe doelstraet [Amsterdam], Feb. 1636
    • Letter to Constantijn Huygens (Amsterdam, February 1636) on 3 paintings, commissioned already in 1635 by the imperial court, as quoted in The Rembrandt Documents, Walter Strauss & Marjon van der Meulen - Abaris Books, New York 1979, p. 129.
    • What Rembrandt is referring to in his phrase "I cannot refrain from presenting you, [dear] Sir, my latest work." is very probably one or more recent etchings Rembrandt made.
  • Because of the great zeal and devotion which I experienced in executing well the two pictures which His Highness commissioned me to make — the one being Christ's dead body being laid in the tomb, and the other Christ arising from the dead to the consternation of the guards — these same two pictures are now finished through studious application, so that I am now disposed to deliver the same and so to afford to His Highness. For in these two paintings the greatest and most natural movement has been expressed, which is also the main reason why they have taken so long to execute.
  • original Dutch text, written by Rembrandt: Door die grooten lust ende geneegenheijt die ick gepleecght hebbe int wel wtvoeren van die twe/ stuckens die sijn Hoocheijt mijn heeft doen maeken weesende het een daer dat doode lichaem Chrisstij/ in den graeve gelecht werd ende dat ander/ daer Chrisstus van den doode opstaet dat met/ grooten verschrickinge des wachters. Dees selvij/ twe stuckens sijn door stuijdiose vlijt nu meede/ afgedaen soodat ick nu oock geneegen ben om die/ selvijge te leeveren om sijn Hoocheijt daer meede/ te vermaeken want deesen twe sijnt daer die meeste/ ende die naetuereelste beweechgelickheijt . in/ geopserveert is dat oock de grooste oorsaeck is dat/ die selvijge soo lang onder handen sij geweest. - in margin: deessen 12 Januwarij 1639, Mijn heer ik woon op die binnenemster, thuijs is genaemt die suijckerbackerrij [in Amsterdam].
    • Letter to Constantijn Huygens (Amsterdam, 12 January 1639) on 3 paintings commissioned (in 1635 and started by Rembrandt already in 1635/36) by the imperial court, as quoted in Painters on Painting (1963) by Eric Protter, p. 78 / Dutch original text in The Rembrandt Documents, Walter Strauss & Marjon van der Meulen - Abaris Books, New York 1979, p. 161.
    • What Rembrandt meant in his phrase "die meeste ende di naetuereelste beweechgelickheijt" has been the subject of dispute. Variant translations have been proposed:
  • For in these two paintings "the greatest and most innate emotion has been expressed", which is also the main reason why they have taken so long to execute (c. 3 years!).
  • The "deepest and most lifelike emotion has been expressed", and that's the reason they have taken so long to execute.
  • ...because of [my] inclination to do this, [and] in spite of your wish (of Constantijn Huygens], [I] am sending [you] along [with this letter] a painting, hoping that you will accept it, because it is the first momento which I offer you, Sir... ...postscripttum]: My [dear] Sir: hang this picture in a bright light and in such a manner that it can be viewed from a distance. It will then sparkle at its best.
  • original Dutch text, written by Rembrandt: ...soo ist door [mijn] geneegentheijt [voor Huygens de raadspensionaris] tot sulx tegens mijns/ heeren begeeren dees bijgaenden douck toesenden [ bij de brief]/ hoopende dat u mijner in deesen niet versmaeden/ sult want het is die eersten gedachtenis/ die ick aen mijn heer laet./... ...[postscriptum]: Mij heer hangt dit stuck op een stark licht en dat men daer wijt ken afstaen so salt best voncken.
    • Letter to Constantijn Huygens (Amsterdam, 27 January 1639), as quoted in The Rembrandt Documents, Walter Strauss & Marjon van der Meulen - Abaris Books, New York 1979, p. 167.
    • What Rembrandt is referring to is a little painting he sent Huygens as a gift together with his letter. This quote clarifies Rembrandt's option about the light en distance, necessary for showing his painting in the right way.
  • Try to put well in practice what you already know; and in so doing, you will in good time, discover the hidden things which you now inquire about. Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear what now you do not know.
  • original in Dutch: Schikt u daer nae, dat gy 't geene gy alreets weet, wel leert in 't werk stellen, zoo zult gy de verborgentheden daer gy nu na vraegt, tijts genoeg ontdekt zien.
    • English text: As quoted in A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors of the World, both Ancient and Modern (1908) by Tryon Edwards, p. 131. Also in EASTLAKE, C. L.:Methods and Materials of Painting of the Great Schools and Masters (p. 477).
    • Dutch text: w:Samuel van Hoogstraten, as quoted by W.Gs Hellinga, Rembrandt fecit 1642: de Nachtwacht, Gysbrecht van Aemstel', J.M. Meulenhoff, Amsterdam 1956, p. 4
    • Rembrandt is speaking to his student Samuel van Hoogstraten (c. 1642), [1]
  • I can't paint the way they want me to paint and they know that too.
    Of course you will say that I ought to be practical and ought to try and paint the way they want me to paint. Well, I will tell you a secret. I have tried and I have tried very hard, but I can't do it. I just can't do it! And that is why I am just a little crazy.
    • As quoted in R.v.R. : Being an Account of the Last Years and the Death of One Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn (1930) by Hendrik Willem van Loon
  • Choose only one master — Nature.
    • As quoted in Rembrandt Drawings (1975) by Paul Némo, as translated by David Macrae
  • Painting is the grandchild of nature. It is related to God.
    • As quoted in Rembrandt Drawings (1975) by Paul Némo, as translated by David Macrae
  • A painting is finished when the artist says it is finished.
    • Statement attributed to Rembrandt in early biographies, as quoted in The Rise of the Cult of Rembrandt: Reinventing an Old Master in Nineteenth-Century France (2003), by Alison MacQueen
    • One of the popular aphorisms about Rembrandt's paintings, drawn from his early biographies in early 19th century and repeatedly attributed to the artist by the French writers and artist, [2], p. 287 of Alison MacQueen's book
  • A painting is not made to be sniffed. [but viewed from a distance - see also Rembrandt's quote, in his letter to w:Constantijn Huygens, Amsterdam, 27 January 1639]
    • Statement attributed to Rembrandt in early biographies, as quoted in The Rise of the Cult of Rembrandt: Reinventing an Old Master in Nineteenth-Century France (2003) by Alison MacQueen
    • One of the popular aphorisms about Rembrandt's paintings, drawn from his early biographies in early 19th century and repeatedly attributed to the artist by the French writers and artist, [3], p. 287 of Alison MacQueen's book
  • A painting is complete when it has the shadows of a god.
    • Statement attributed to Rembrandt in early biographies, as quoted in The Rise of the Cult of Rembrandt: Reinventing an Old Master in Nineteenth-Century France (2003) by Alison MacQueen
    • This quote is not to find in the source, [4]

Quotes about Rembrandt - chronologically[edit]

Rembrandt painted 700 pictures. Of these, 3,000 are still in existence. ~ Wilhelm von Bode
Rembrandt not only stops the time that made the subject flow into the future, but makes it flow back to the remotest ages. ~ Jean Genet
Rembrandt is truly called a magician... that's not an easy calling. ~ van Gogh
I believe in Michael Angelo, Velasquez, and Rembrandt; in the might of design, the mystery of color, the redemption of all things by Beauty everlasting, and the message of Art that has made these hands blessed. ~ George Bernard Shaw
He can blend, like no one else, reality with mystery, the bestial with the divine, the most subtle and powerful craftsmanship with the greatest, the loneliest depths of feeling that painting has ever expressed. ~ Paul Valéry

17th century[edit]

  • Rembrandt surpasses Lievens in the faculty of penetrating to the heart of his subject matter and bringing out its essence, and his works come across more vividly. Lievens, in turn, surpasses him in the proud self-assurance that radiates from his compositions and their powerful forms. Because Lievens's spirit - and this is due in part to his youth - is charged with the great and the glorious, he is inclined to depict the objects and models before him not life-sized but larger than life. Rembrandt on the other hand, obsessed by the effort to translate into paint what he sees in the mind's eye, prefers smaller formats, in which he nonetheless achieves effects that you will not find in the largest works of others.
  • ...I will not attempt your fame / O Rembrandt, with my pen to scrawl / For the esteem you receive in every hall / Is known when I merely mention your name...
    • w:Lambert Bos; as quoted in Rembrandt: The Painter at Work, by Ernst van de Wetering, Amsterdam University Press, 1997, p. 268 – note 7
    • The poet w:Lambert Bos included in 1650 these four lines, in a poem he made in praise of a collection of paintings, according to w:Ernst van de Wetering
  • Rembrandt, the son of a miller, a pupil of Lastman, attained to a high degree of excellence in art through industry and natural gifts, although he never visited Italy and was but imperfectly developed... ...He sinned against the laws of anatomy, proportion, perspective, and the antique, as against Raphael's draftsmanship; and he warred also against academies and relied on nature.
    • Joachim von Sandrart, in Comments (1675), as quoted in Painters on Painting (1963) by Eric Protter, p. 80
  • His engravings bear witness to his industry, and by its means he acquired affluence... ...If he had been more prudent in his relations with others, he would have become still wealthier. But although he was no spendthrift, he cared little for social rank, and was addicted to the society of humble folks, who interfered a good deal with his work.
    • Joachim von Sandrart, in Comments (1675), as quoted in Painters on Painting (1963) by Eric Protter, p. 80
  • ..that the strong impasto was due to Rembrandt's slow way of painting and his habit of returning tot he same passage over and over again, and that consequently the portrait commisions eventually stopped coming in.
    • w:Filippo Baldinucci, as quoted in the 'Introduction', in Rembrandt: The Painter at Work, w:Ernst van de Wetering, Amsterdam University Press, 1997, p. 5
    • after conversations with Rembrandt's pupil Eberhard Keil, Filippo Baldinucci (1625 – 1696), the Florentine abbot and art-connoisseur - recorded this remark

18th century[edit]

  • With regard to art he [Rembrandt] was rich with ideas, so that you frequently see him making a great number of different sketches of one and the same object, full also of changes in the figures and poses as well as the arrangement of the clothing; for which he is to be praised above all others – especially above those who employ such figures and clothing in their work as if they were twins.
  • He [Rembrandt] had been so busy painting continuously over so many years that people had to wait some considerable time fort heir paintings, in spite of the fact that he continued working dexterously, particularly in his later period when, seen close to, it looked as though the paint had been smeared on with a bricklayers trowel...
  • Vele jaren agter den anderen heeft hy het met schilderen zoo druk gehad dat de menschen lang naar hunne stukken moesten wagten, niettegenstaande dat hy met zyn werk vaardig voortging, inzonderheid in zyn laatsten tyd, toen het 'er, van na by bezien, uitzag of het met een Metzelaars truffel was aangesmeert...
    • Dutch version: w:Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen (3 delen), published by J. Swart / C. Boucquet / M. Gaillard, 2e druk, 'sGravenhage 1753, p. 269
    • English version w:Arnold Houbraken, as quoted in Rembrandt: The Painter at Work, by w:Ernst van de Wetering, Amsterdam University Press, 1997, p. 5
    • The painter Arnold Houbraken (1660 – 1719) was on intimate terms with several former pupils of Rembrandt who had worked in Rembrandt's studio; they told him this information from inside the studio, because they could observe the master in his work.
  • he [Rembrandt] was not to be dissuaded from this practice, saying in justification that a work is finished when the master has achieved his intention in it.
    • w:Arnold Houbraken; as quoted in Rembrandt: The Painter at Work, by Ernst van de Wetering, Amsterdam University Press, 1997, p. 164 - note 24
    • [Houbraken is quoting his informants and presents this quote in relation to the paintings of Rembrandt, in which some parts were worked up in great detail, while the remainder was smeared as if by a coarse tarbrush, without consideration to the [underlying] drawing.
  • He only lived with the lower class and people much below himself... ...He looked to nature as the only one capable of teaching him. He chose no other studio for his studies than his father's windmill.
    • w:Jean Baptiste Descamps La vie des peintres, flamands, allemands et hollandois, Paris, 1753
    • the information is based mainly on the biography of w:Arnold Houbraken. The fact that the young painter Rembrandt only lived in the windmill of his father (in Leiden) is rather disputable; also his life between the Amsterdam elite is disappearing in this quote. [5].

19th century[edit]

  • I have had three masters, Nature, Velázquez, and Rembrandt.
    • Francisco Goya, as quoted in Painters on Painting by Eric Protter, p. 98 (Dover Publications, 1971)
  • I have likewise made many 'skies' and effects — for I wish it could be said of me as Fuselli says of Rembrandt: 'he followed nature in her calmest abodes and could pluck a flower on every hedge — yet he was born to cast a steadfast eye on the bolder phenomena of nature'.
    • Quote of John Constable from his letter to Rev. John Fisher in 1821 on painting his oil-sketches of stormy weather, as quoted in Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams, Constable (Tate Gallery Publications, London 1993), p. 222
  • Rembrandt the Thinker.
  • Perhaps we shall one day find that Rembrandt is a greater painter than Raphael. I write down this blasphemy which will cause the hair of the school-men to stand on end without taking sides.
    • Eugène Delacroix, in his Journal, 1851; as quoted in The Rise of the Cult of Rembrandt: Reinventing an Old Master in Nineteenth-Century France (2004) by Alison McQueen, p. 102
  • I am very sure that if Rembrandt had held himself down to his studio practice (drawing every figure nude before putting clothing on them) he would not have either that power of pantomime nor that power over effects which makes his scenes so genuinely the expression of nature... ...the further I go on in life the more I feel within me that truth is what is most beautiful, and most rare... ...[this] is to be found again in Rembrandt's mysterious conception of his subjects, in the deep naturalness of expressions and of gestures.
    • ** Eugène Delacroix, in his Journal, 1851; as quoted by Alison McQueen, in The Rise of the Cult of Rembrandt: Reinventing an Old Master in Nineteenth-century France, Amsterdam University Press, 2003, p 102 – note 233
  • I have a memory above all of a small landscape by Rembrandt with this inscription 'Tacet sed loquitur', which made such an impression on me in my childhood.
    • w:Paul Huet, in a letter to Théophile Silvestre, 1854, as quoted by Philippe Burt, in 'Paul Huet', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, April 1869
    • Paul Huet made copies after Remrandt’s prints [which were much more spreak and accesible as his paintings, of course] as early as 1835. But Huet was wrong this time; the print was made by Johannus Ruyscher, [6]
  • You speak to me of Rembrand, of this famous, of this great, of this giant... ...I would very much like to see the painting by Rembrandt of which you speak, because it should be quiete splendid. I eat it up from here (you know the fashionable phrase)
    • w:Alphonse Legros, in a letter to his friend w:Henri Fantin-Latour, 12 March 1858; as quoted by Alison McQueen, in The Rise of the Cult of Rembrandt: Reinventing an Old Master in Nineteenth-century France, Amsterdam University Press, 2003, p. 86 - note 186
  • He [Rembrandt] introduced a new ideal, not the ideal of forms, but the ideal of clair-obscur, not the ideal of beauty, but the ideal of expression.
  • Rembrandt was also fond of this subject from the story of Tobias [and the Angel [7]], of which he painted various scenes in an informal style, which recalls a little the peasant-like style of M. Millet... ...For two centuries, the exclusive amateurs of the grand Italian style have always manhandled Rembrandt, which have not prevented him from making inroads in the museums... ...of Europe, This should console the realists [a. o. Millet] a bit fort the current injustices and give them some hope for the future.
    • w:Thoré-Bürger, in his review of the 'Salon of 1861'; as quoted by Alison McQueen, The Rise of the Cult of Rembrandt: Reinventing an Old Master in Nineteenth-century France', Amsterdam University Press, 2003, p. 49-50 note 112
    • This quote refers to Jean-Francois Millet's picture 'Waiting', exhibited on the Paris' Salon of 1861 - picturing the biblical story of Tobias and his wife
  • Of the old etchers, Rembrandt, as all acknowledge, is the sovereign prince.
    • Philip Gilbert Hamerton, in Etching, The Art Journal, 1866, p. 294 [as quoted in Art in Reproduction: Nineteenth-Century Prints after Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Jozef Israëls and Ary Scheffer, by Robert Verhoogt (Amsterdam University Press, 2007), p. 592]
  • The best history is but like the art of Rembrandt; it casts a vivid light on certain selected causes, on those which were best and greatest; it leaves all the rest in shadow and unseen.
  • This print speaks [ the 'Hundred Guilder Print', a famous etching of Rembrandt], the shadow is vaporous like an autumn day and the figures are animated with a breath of air... ...it summarizes everything, sentiment, order, moral, light and painting. If I looked at it an entire day, I would be dazzled and almost frightened by Rembrandt's genius... [Rousseau ended up the talk paying 8.000 francs for the print]
  • Rembrandt printed himself. We have known this without a doubt since Doctor Scheltema, the wise archivist in Amsterdam, found in the archives in this city and published the inventory of all that was recorded in Rembrandt's house [location: Jodenbreestraat, Amsterdam] when it was seized in 1656 to be sold by the Chamber of Insolvents. We encounter scattered here and there all the trappings of a printmaker-printer: 'In the room behind the antechamber: a small oak-table, four lampshades; an oak press. In the room behind the livingroom: a press of marbelized yellow wood'.
    • Burt, in his article 'La Belle épreuve', in 'L'eau-forte in 1875', p. 9+10; as quoted by Alison McQueen, in The Rise of the Cult of Rembrandt: Reinventing an Old Master in Nineteenth-century France], Amsterdam University Press, 2003, p. 236 – note 453 [[1]
  • I should be happy to give 10 years of my life if I could go on sitting here in front of this picture for a fortnight, with only a crust of dry bread for food.
  • There is something of Rembrandt in the Gospel, or something of the Gospel in Rembrandt, as you like it — it comes to the same, if one only understands the thing in the right way.
  • Rembrandt is so deeply mysterious that he says things for which there are no words in any language. Rembrandt is truly called a magician... that's not an easy calling.
  • Above all the popular attracted him [Rembrandt], and in the squares, in the suburbs, the workers and the countryfolk appeared to him wearthy of attention... ...their expressive gestures become more frankly marked, their attitude and their expressions are more natural... Rembrandt never stopped studying them. He loved living among the poor.
    • w:François Emile Michel, in Rembrandt sa vie son oeuvre et son temps [8], Hachette, Paris 1893, p. 62-63
    • Michel is picturing here Rembrandt as the 'Painter of the poor'

20th century[edit]

  • Rembrandt, in effect, belongs to the race of artists who cannot have descendants, the race of Michelangelo, the race of Shakespeare, of Beethoven; like these Prometheuses of art he wanted to ravish the celestial fife, to put the vibrations of life into still form, to express in the visible, that which by its very nature is non-material and undefineable.
    • François Émile Michel, as quoted in Celebrating Quiet Artists: Stirring Stories of Introverted Artists Who the World Can't Forget (2016) by Prasenjeet Kumar.
  • Compare me with Rembrandt! What sacrilege! With Rembrandt, the colossus of Art! What are you thinking of, my friend! We should prostrate ourselves before Rembrandt and never compare anyone with him!
    • Auguste Rodin, in Art: Conversations with Paul Gsell (University of California Press, 1984), p. 85 [Translated by Jacques de Caso and Patricia B. Sanders]. Originally published as L'Art: Entretiens réunis par Paul Gsell (Paris: Bernard Grasset, Éditeur, 1911).
  • Neither Imperial Russia, nor the Russia of the Soviets needs me. They don't understand me. I am a stranger to them. I'm certain Rembrandt loves me.
    • Marc Chagall (1922), as quoted in Chagall: A Biography by Jackie Wullschlager (2008), p. 274
  • He can blend, like no one else, reality with mystery, the bestial with the divine, the most subtle and powerful craftsmanship with the greatest, the loneliest depths of feeling that painting has ever expressed.
    • Paul Valéry, Degas Danse Dessin (Degas Dance Drawing, 1935)
  • Rembrandt was himself a universal spirit, and this spirit informs everything that he painted, so that a biblical legend, a carcass of an ox, a naked woman, his own self-portrait — all stand as symbols of an all-embracing sympathy. Perhaps only Shakespeare, in another art, has that kind of universal intelligence.
    • Sir Herbert Read in "Gauguin: The Return to Symbolism" in The Tenth Muse: Essays in Criticism (1957).
  • His temperament was that of a Prophet — a God-possessed man, brother to Dostoevski, and teeming with the future, a future he bore within him as the Hebrew prophets bore within them the coming of the Messiah, and as he bore within himself the past.
    • André Malraux as quoted in Painters on Painting (1963) by Eric Protter, p. 78
  • A painting by Rembrandt not only stops the time that made the subject flow into the future, but makes it flow back to the remotest ages. By means of this operation Rembrandt achieves solemnity. He thus discovers why, at every moment, every event is solemn: he knows it from his own solitude.
    • Jean Genet, "Something Which Seemed to Resemble Decay" (1964), trans. Bernard Frechtman, Antaeus (spring 1985 issue)
  • Probably no one has combined to as great a degree as Rembrandt a disciplined exposition of what his eye saw and a love of line as a beautiful thing in itself. His "Winter Landscape" displays the virtuosity of performance of an Oriental master, yet unlike the Oriental calligraphy, it is not based on an established convention of brush performance. It is as personal as handwriting.
    • Daniel Marcus Mendelowitz, in Drawing (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Inc., 1967), p. 305
  • The psychological truth of Rembrandt's paintings goes beyond that of any other artist who has ever lived. Of course they are masterpieces of sheer picture-making. In the Bathsheba he makes use of studies from nature and from antique reliefs to achieve a perfectly balanced design. We may think we admire it as pure painting, but in the end we come back to the head. Bathsheba's thoughts and feelings as she ponders David's letter are rendered with a subtlety and a human sympathy which a great novelist could scarcely achieve in many pages.
    • Kenneth Clark, Civlisation (1969), ch. 8: The Light of Experience
  • Rembrandt. painted about 700 pictures—of these, 3,000 are in existence.
    • Wilhelm von Bode, as quoted in The Book of Bill: Choice Words Memorable Men, by Tom Crisp, 2009, p. 124
  • Of all the Baroque masters, it was Rembrandt who evolved the most revolutionary technique and who seemed to grow into the Italians' spiritual heir. Where others needed five touches he was using one, and so the brushstrokes had begun to separate and could sometimes only be properly read from a distance. The exact imitation of form was being replaced by the suggestion of it: to some of his contemporaries, therefore, his paintings began to look unfinished. It was from the Venetians that he had learned to use a brown ground so that his paintings emerged from dark to light, physically as well as spiritually. Yet, despite a palette that was limited even by seventeenth century standards, he was renowned as a colorist for he managed to maintain a precarious balance between painting tonally, with light and shade, and painting in color. Just as form was suggested rather than delineated, so the impression of rich color was deceptive. Never before had a painter taken such a purely sensuous interest and delight in the physical qualities of his medium, nor granted it a greater measure of independence from the image.
  • It is tempting to believe that Rembrandt might have owned, or seen, Chinese or Japanese paintings. But there is no evidence for this at all. Yet when we look at some of his drawings, notably those sketched freely in ink or ink wash, we find a combination of formal clarity and calligraphic vitality in the movement of pen or brush that is closer to Chinese painting in technique and feeling than to anything in European art before the twentieth century. This, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we must attribute to coincidence and to Rembrandt's unique gifts as a draughtsman.
    • Michael Sullivan, in The Meeting of Eastern and Western Art (University of California Press, 1989), p. 91
  • Kolakowski, as we will see, has clearly depicted the religious life and the forms of community constructed by the cultured strata of the Dutch bourgeoisie. Spinoza lives in this world, with a vast network of simple and sociable friendships and correspondences. But for certain determinate strata of the bourgeoisie the sweetness of the cultured and sedate life is accompanied, without any contradiction, by an association with a capitalist Power (potestas), expressed in very mature terms. This is the condition of a Dutch bourgeois man. We could say the same thing for the other genius of that age, Rembrandt van Rijn. On his canvases the power of light is concentrated with intensity on the figures of a bourgeois world in terrific expansion. It is a prosaic but very powerful society, which makes poetry without knowing it because it has the force to do so.
    • Antonio Negri (1991). Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza's Metaphysics and Politics, translated from the Italian original by Michael Hardt.
  • Offhand, I think of the Schubert Fantaisie in F Minor. The weight of the melody here is such that you can't place where it is, or what it's coming from. There are not many experiences of this kind in music, but a perfect example of what I mean can be found in Rembrandt's self-portrait in the Frick. Not only is it impossible for us to comprehend how this painting was made; we cannot even fix where it exists in relation to our vision. Music is not painting, but it can learn from this more perceptive temperament that waits and observes the inherent mystery of its materials, as opposed to the composer's vested interest in his craft. Since music has never had a Rembrandt, we have remained nothing more than musicians.
    • Morton Feldman, as quoted in The Music of Morton Feldman, by Thomas DeLio, 1996, p. 208
  • About 1630, w:Constantijn Huygens in his briljant analysis of the figure of Judas in Rembrandt's 'Judas Repentant' argues that: 'Rembrandt had surpassed the painters from Antiquity, as well as the great sixteenth-century Italian artists when it came tot he representation of emotions expressed by figures that act in a history painting'.

21th century[edit]

  • During this period [1830 – 1900, in France], Rembrandt was appropriated as a symbolic figure by critics and painter-printmakers and assigned a heroic, cult-like artistic and political status. French critics molded and reinvented earlier anecdotal biographies... ...to formulate an artistic persona that had particular meaning [for] nineteenthcentury French vanguard art and politics.
  • Rembrandt was a model from the past that artists and critics [in France] sought out because he fulfilled their needs for a new 'non-ideal' exemplar, someone who could justify and bolster their own artistic projects and political views... ...as a successful predecessor and he functioned as a mentor... ...through the practical emulation of his artistic techniques... French artists did their utmost to absorb, invoke, subsume and usurp Rembrandt’s artistic persona in an effort to define their own identities.
  • Two aphorisms about Rembrandt's paintings were drawn from his early biographies and repeatedly attributed to the artist by the French writers: A painting is finished when the artists says that it is finished and A painting is not made to be sniffed, but contemplated from a distance... ...These paintings were identified with the latter years of Rembrandt's life, the period in which critics said he suffered most from financial pressures and a lack of public acclaim. Works identified with these final years were the most popular in France during the last decades of the nineteenth century.
  • [Rembrandt] The most famous brand name in western art. In America alone it graces toothpaste, bracelet charms, restaurant and bars, countertops and of course the town of Rembrandt, Iowa just halfway around the world from the Rembrandt Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. Funny thing is Rembrandt might have been quite pleased with such widespread notoriety. (...) Rembrandt was a realist craftsman who showed off his craft to sell his work. His paintings brim with self-confidence as this in bold oil sketch of the entombment of Christ painted with an almost modern bravado. His drawings were dashed off with a Zen-like assurance. His etchings complete and elaborate works of art in themselves which sold in great quantity to two Dutch middle class.
  • One thing that really surprises me is the extent to which Rembrandt exists as a phenomenon in pop culture. You have this musical group call the Rembrandts, who wrote the theme song to Friends—“I'll Be There For You.” There are Rembrandt restaurants, Rembrandt hotels, art supplies and other things that are more obvious. But then there's Rembrandt toothpaste. Why on Earth would somebody name a toothpaste after this artist who's known for his really dark tonalities? It doesn't make a lot of sense. But I think it's because his name has become synonymous with quality. It's even a verb—there's a term in underworld slang, “to be Rembrandted,” which means to be framed for a crime. And people in the cinema world use it to mean pictorial effects that are overdone. He's just everywhere, and people who don't know anything, who wouldn't recognize a Rembrandt painting if they tripped over it, you say the name Rembrandt and they already know that this is a great artist. He's become a synonym for greatness.
  • I gave up painting by 16. I secretly thought I would have been Rembrandt by then. I don't believe in genius. I believe in freedom. I think anyone can do it. Anyone can be like Rembrandt... Picasso, Michelangelo, possibly, might be verging on genius, but I don't think a painter like Rembrandt is a genius. It's about freedom and guts. It's about looking. It can be learned. That's the great thing about art. Anybody can do it if you just believe. With practice, you can make great paintings.
  • It's an exhilarating feeling, holding that painting, especially when you have studied it for so long and are now the sole proprietor of said piece. To an art lover, possessing a Rembrandt can be likened to winning the World Series, the Super Bowl, and the Stanley Cup all at once. You feel a real sense of almost being a part of the artist's mind.
  • Well, any draftsman knows about speed. I mean, Rembrandt drawings, you can see speed in them. I am interested in speed. I think most painters paint faster than they tell you.
  • There's a drawing by Rembrandt, I think it's the greatest drawing ever done. It's in the British Museum and it's of a family teaching a child to walk, so it's a universal thing, everybody has experienced this or seen it happen. Everybody. I used to print out Rembrandt drawings big and give them to people and say: “If you find a better drawing send it to me. But if you find a better one it will be by Goya or Michelangelo perhaps.” But I don't think there is one actually. It's a magnificent drawing, magnificent.
  • The Chinese regarded not acknowledging the brush and the marks it makes as a bit crude; to them, that was trying to cover something up, so not such a high form of art. European art historians don't look at China very much. But I suspect Rembrandt must have known Chinese drawings, and had probably seen a few. Amsterdam was a port, and the Dutch were trading a great deal in the Far East. For example, a Chinese master looking at Rembrandt's drawing of a family, now in the British Museum, would recognise it as a masterwork. (...) The trace of Rembrandt's hand is still alive. Your eye can go back and forth between brown ink: sister; fast mark: mother. How rewarding this is, to move from the physical surface of the paper to its disappearance when you read the “subject”, and then back again. How many marvellous layers does this drawing have? The mother has a double profile, Picassoesque. Was it an accident with the pen that he then used as a master would? Both profiles are fascinating about her character. Her skirt is a bit ragged, without any real detail; one seems to know this, and then marvels at how these few lines suggest it. Then, there's a passing milkmaid, perhaps glancing at a very common scene, and we know the milk pail is full. You can sense the weight. Rembrandt perfectly and economically indicates this with – what? Six marks, the ones indicating her outstretched arm. Very few people could get near this. It is a perfect drawing.
  • In a way, Vermeer and Rembrandt are opposites. But Rembrandt is the greater artist, I think, because he's got more ingredients than Vermeer. Rembrandt put more in the face than anyone else ever has, before or since, because he saw more. And that was not a matter of using a camera. That was to do with his heart. The Chinese say you need three things for paintings: the hand, the eye and the heart. I think that remark is very, very good. Two won't do. A good eye and heart is not enough, neither is a good hand and eye. It applies to every drawing and painting Rembrandt ever made. His work is a great example of the hand, the eye – and the heart. There is incredible empathy in it.
  • Rembrandt is revered as one of the greatest and most important figures in the trajectory of art, and for good reason. He was, by design or nature, a revolutionary. As such he is perhaps a uniquely qualified interlocutor with other cultures and civilizations. (...) For the first time in the history of art, the painting speaks for itself. To put it another way, as Malraux phrased it, Rembrandt was the first to touch the soul with his paintings. He went well beyond the subject matter, which is only a pretense of sorts, to reach a more profound truth. As one watches the trajectory of his career arc, he is always stretching further and further in his paintings, to find his own concept of “beauty”. That is why he was influential for future generations. By throwing off the confines of classicism, he freed others to push their own boundaries in the pursuit of beauty through their own conceptions of truth. (...) André Malraux described Rembrandt as prophet. He drew from the past to unleash the future. It is an exciting thought. Of course, he came to be seen as a metaphor for virtuosity. André Gide made a wonderful compliment to Dostoyevsky by claiming that he was the greatest novelist because he created portraits in his writings like Rembrandt painted.
  • Rembrandt is the most transparent artist I know. What he proclaimed as his credo, the commentaries of his contemporaries and what we find in the drawings all add up to one obsessively truthful, artist. One who proclaimed that he drew from nature (life) and 'anything else (invention) was worthless in his eyes'. He could not have been clearer, yet because this credo directly contradicts the apparent credo of our times: the more an artist differs from nature the more 'creative' that artist is, Rembrandt's true gift to us has been excised.
  • Rembrandt was the sharpest observer of human behavior. This is his amazing strength and needs to be studied. We cannot understand him if we deny his use of models and de-attribute half his output. He was the most important signpost for artists. Scholarly antics have pushed him into a position where he is no longer trusted by the young. I have been preaching the need for a paradigm shift in the mind-set of the tribe of art historians for years. They need to start by experiencing practical art for themselves, or at minimum, have the humility to listen to those who have.
  • My discoveries came as a result of practising art. For me Rembrandt's drawings exemplify above all others, the sculptural values of space and form. The scholars live in a world apart, reading each others books but refusing all correction from artists; alas, it is our history they are ravaging!
  • Rembrandt was on a continuous journey of discovery; not on a production line of consistent art objects for the market-place, as the scholars hope to recreate him. His wide ranging methods and interests produced very wide ranging quality. He did not tidy away his less successful works, nor should the scholars do so. He has left us the fullest record of his explorations of any artist and naturally his work includes many comparative failures. But astonishingly, even some of his greatest drawings have been mis-attributed to minor students.

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