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Rembrandt Van Rijn

1606-1669. Dutch painter. Nurtured in the humanistic culture of Holland's “golden age,” at Leyden University, he broke young into the fashionable art patronage circle with his group portrait, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp (1632). From the time of his marriage to Saskia till her early death (1634-42), Rembrandt flourished by painting life-size portraits, biblical story topics, and fantastic landscapes in the fashionable Baroque manner; touches of oriental exotica and his own genial, somewhat darker chiaroscuro gave the vigorous, framebursting action or penetrating character study an extra dimension of aplomb—e.g., the éclat of the wall-size masterpiece, Night Watch (1642).

Thereafter the paintings grew with a darkling mysteriousness, so that the golden light spots did not dramatize external features and events so much as illumine covert meanings, depths deeper than meets the eye. That warm black, which Picasso has said he covets to have painted, leaves behind mythological fantasies and rules out mere sense perception; the darkness of Rembrandt's later portraits reveals the creatural truth of how men can suffer misfortune while still believing in the presence of God. The stern look of authority determined to be just, the pensive tenderness of an ennobling sadness, and the ache of life's troubled happiness come through again and again in the enormously richly colored, almost sketching, heavy brush strokes or thick impasto scraped away by Rembrandt's palette knife; see, for example, Man With a Gilt Helmet (1652), Bathsheba After the Bath (1654), Saul and David (c.1660). Other late works like the glorious Flayed Ox (1655, in the Louvre), the famous Syndics of the Cloth Guild (1662), and the unforgettable (Jewish Bridal Couple (c.1665) show a dimension of insight not surpassed in the history of painting.

The truth rediscovered by the Reformation-that men in our sin- filled world can still disclose the handiwork of God, and that vocation, God's calling man to a task, is an intangible but everlasting reality, and that Grace can be inside daily human life, sanctifying matters as normal and pervasive as work and marriage-Rembrandt softly and masterfully paints for men with eyes to see.