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Rembrandt never went abroad, but was considerably influenced by the work of the Italian masters and Netherlandish artists who had studied in Italy, such as Pieter Lastman, the Utrecht Caravaggists, the Flemish Baroque and Peter Paul Rubens. After achieving youthful success as a portrait painter, Rembrandt's later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular during his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high and he taught many important Dutch painters for twenty years. Nevertheless, he suffered considerable financial problems at times, went bankrupt in 1656 and died in poverty. Rembrandt's portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible are considered his greatest creative triumphs. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate autobiography in which the artist portrays himself without vanity and with utmost sincerity. Rembrandt's most important contribution in the history of printmaking was the transformation of the etching process from a relatively new reproduction technique into a true art form, together with Jacques Callot. His reputation as the greatest etcher in the history of the medium was established during his lifetime and has never been questioned since. Few of his paintings left the Dutch Republic while he lived, but his prints were circulated throughout Europe, and his wider reputation was initially based on them alone.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (* 15 July 1606 in Leiden; † 4 October 1669 in Amsterdam; known by his given name Rembrandt) is considered one of the most important and well-known Dutch artists of the Baroque period. An innovative and prolific master in three media, he is generally regarded as one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art and art history. Unlike most 17th century Dutch masters, Rembrandt's works display a wide range of styles and subjects, from portraits and self-portraits to landscapes, genre scenes, allegorical and historical scenes, and biblical and mythological themes. His contributions to art came at a time of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age, when Dutch art (especially Dutch painting), though in many ways unlike the Baroque style that dominated Europe, was highly productive and innovative, producing important new genres. Like many artists of the Dutch Golden Age, such as Jan Vermeer of Delft, Rembrandt was an avid art collector and dealer.

*1606-1669

Rembrandt van Rijn

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Oil on canvas, 169,5 x 216,5 cm
 Mauritshuis, Den Haag, Netherlands
 © ARTOTHEK

71 | The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (Die Anatomie des Dr.Tulp), 1632

Oil on canvas, 363,0 x 437,0 cm 
 Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
 © Hans Hinz – ARTOTHEK

72 | The Night Watch (De Nachtwacht) Die Nachtwache, 1642

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In his work he exhibited knowledge of classical iconography, which he adapted to the demands of his own experience. Thus the depiction of a biblical scene was influenced by Rembrandt's knowledge of the specific text, his assimilation of classical composition and his observations by the Jewish population of Amsterdam. Because of his compassion for the human condition, he has been called "one of the great prophets of civilisation". The French sculptor Auguste Rodin said: "Compare me to Rembrandt! What a sacrilege! With Rembrandt, the colossus of art! We should prostrate ourselves before Rembrandt and never compare anyone to him!"

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