30 December 2013

Rembrandt Google Doodle: His 407th Birthday

Rembrandt Google Doodle

Rembrandt Google Doodle

Rembrandt Google Doodle

July 15th 2013 saw Google pay a doodle based homage to a man who is considered to have been one of the greatest artists in history. This man was Rembrandt van Rijn.  The Rembrandt Google Doodle celebrated what would have been his 407th birthday. His artistic talent lay not only in successfully capturing both light and form but also in conveying human emotion in his paintings. Rembrandt van Rijn’s artistry depicts subjects in a wide range of formats and this has been celebrated in the Rembrandt Google Doodle. These formats include portraits, vibrant landscapes and insightful allegories. Often Rembrandt’s allegories would be drawn from his own personal hardships and tribulations. The insight provided by these allegories is such that hundreds of years after his death they still speak those who view them.

In a blog, doodler Jennifer Hom describes the process of creating the Rembrandt Google Doodle. What struck her first was shock, “It was surprising to realize that the doodle team had not yet celebrated this artistic legend with a Rembrandt Google Doodle.  With a four-year degree in illustration, I realized that it was going to be no small task to emulate one of the greatest painters of all time. Encouraged by my team, however, I charged into the Rembrandt Google Doodle project with fragile confidence.” Hom underwent a number of studies prior to the final painting which was used for the Rembrandt Google Doodle. She used a number of paint types, including water soluble paint, in order to discern the style which Rembrandt used to create his masterpieces.

However Hom’s patience paid off. She produced a beautiful portrait of Rembrandt for use in the Rembrandt Google Doodle. In her blog she explained her feelings on the Rembrandt Google Doodle project. “Creating a master copy of a paragon of art was a humbling experience. The sureness of his brush and the ripeness of his skill is apparent in every stroke.” She wrote, “aside from his technical prowess, however, the sincerity in this face is something I will never forget.”

Rembrandt was born on July 15th 1606 in the town of Leiden, in the Dutch Republic, modern day Netherlands. He was the ninth child of his parents, Harmen Gerritszoon van Rijn and Neeltgen Wilemsdochter van Zuytbrouck. His family were relatively wealthy as his father was an established miller and his mother was the daughter of a baker.

Observers of Rembrandt’s paintings often notice a strong theme of religion in many of his pieces. Due to the fact that the period in which he lived was religiously fraught, many find his portrayal of faith to be a matter of particular interest. During this time the Dutch Republic was famously tolerant of religion. Due to this it is little surprise that his mother was a Roman Catholic whilst his father belong to the Dutch Reformed Church. Whilst religion featured heavily in Rembrandt’s work, portraying a deep Christian faith, there is no historic evidence of him having membership to any church.

His early education began at a Latin school, after which he enrolled at the University of Leiden. However it was observed at the time he had a much greater inclination towards painting. Rembrandt pursued this inclination and soon found himself as an apprentice to a leading Leiden based historical painter, Jacob van Swanenburgh. He studied under Swanenburgh for a period of three years. Following an apprenticeship of six months with the greatly acclaimed painter Pieter Lastman he opened his own studio. Much disagreement arises between historians as to the exact year in which he opened his studio. Although many agree it was either 1624 or 1625. His studio was shared with his friend and fellow painter, Jan Lievens. In 1627 Rembrandt began to take on students, notably Gerrit Duo was among them.

Rembrandt’s work was discovered in 1629 by the statesman Constantijn Huygens, who began to secure him commissions for use in the court of The Hague. This connection introduced Rembrandt’s work to the attention of Prince Frederik Hendrik. Hendrik became a loyal fan of Rembrandt’s paintings, which he continued to purchase until 1646.

Despite his success, Rembrandt lived beyond his means. His decadence included purchasing works of art, famous prints and a number of antiquities. Historians widely agree that this decadence culminated in the court arrangement which aimed to avoid him facing bankruptcy in 1656. Rembrandt’s bankruptcy was only avoided by selling much of his collection of paintings and antiquities. According to a list of sales which survives the items sold included suits of Japanese armour, busts of Roman Emperors and collections of minerals and items of natural history. The prices which these items were sold for in the years of 1657 and 1658 are largely observed to be far lower than the items were worth. The failure of these sales to raise the necessary funds meant that Rembrandt was forced to sell both his home and printing press in order to move to a more humble residency.

In his own words Rembrandt’s art sought to capture “the greatest and most natural movement”. One of his most famous works is “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee”. The piece was completed in 1633, however it has been missing since 1990 after it was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum. The location of this stolen painting remains a mystery to this day. A number of his biblical works including “The Raising of the Cross”, “Joseph Telling His Dreams”, “The Stoning of Saint Stephen” and “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” feature Rembrandt as a character within the crowd. An observer notes that this is likely because Rembrandt saw the bible as “a kind of diary, an account of moments in his own life.”

In addition to biblical paintings Rembrandt painted a large number of portraits during his life. These portraits are easily recognisable due to his iconic style. This style includes angling of the sitters face in such a way that in most cases the ridge of the nose marks a line of demarcation between the shadowy and brightly lit areas of the face.

Whilst Rembrandt enjoyed much early success and recognition for his paintings, his later life was punctuated by financial issues and personal vicissitudes. He died on the 4th of October 1669 in Amsterdam and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Westerkerk.