Rembrandt: Biographical and Critical Study

Rembrandt: Biographical and Critical Study

Rembrandt: Biographical and Critical Study

Rembrandt: Biographical and Critical Study

Excerpt

Of all Rembrandt's work it was the paintings that were least appreciated by his contemporaries. Although unknown outside a small circle of initiates, the drawings were held by them in the highest esteem, while the etchings, warmly praised and sought after even in his lifetime, earned him an international reputation. 'The paintings, however, particularly those of his later years, were continually meeting with critical reservations or objections, the early ones being considered too bold, too impetuous, and the later ones "outmoded." In some verses he wrote as a warning to Philips Koninck, the Dutch poet Vondel compared Rembrandt--though without mentioning his name --to an owl dwelling in the shadows and called him "a son of darkness." His chiaroscuro ran counter to the contemporary vogue for brightly colored paintings. The whole style of his paintings was a stumbling-block even to such eminent judges of a later day as William Blake and Jakob Burckhardt, and academic-minded critics did not fail to point out his defects, even when they themselves owed him a large but of course unacknowledged debt (such was the case with Sir Joshua Reynolds). Yet it is precisely Rembrandt's painting which, from the 19th century on, has won him the unique place he now occupies in the history of art and has exerted a revolutionary influence. Today in the minds of millions of people Rembrandt is the Prince of Painters and is known to them only by the work of his brush.

There are many strands in Rembrandt's art linking it up with that of his predecessors and contemporaries. He sprang from an art current which, by the time he came on the scene, no longer held so dominant a position as in the preceding . . .

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