Commemorating the 407th birth anniversary of one of the greatest painters of all time, Google has altered logo yet again to involve the portrait of the celebrated Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn.
Happy Birthday Rembrandt
Rembrandt is most known for his self portraits. He began his career with portrait painting and only about 10% of these portraits were of himself, yet these are the portraits we most often see.
Born on 15 July 1606, Rembrandt van Rijn (Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn in full) was the fourth of six surviving children (four of his siblings died). Unlike many of his contemporaries, Rembrandt didn’t come from a family of artisans. His father was a miller and his mother came from a family of bakers. It’s likely that this upbringing influenced Rembrandt’s unique artistic expression.
Rembrandt as the Story Teller
Rembrandt is regarded as one of the greatest storytellers in the history of art. Even though it is the selection of portraits we most often see, the biblical themes eventually made up most of Rembrandt’s body of work.
What I love about Rembrandt is the work that illustrated stories. Rembrandt was indeed a great story teller. He composed images that conveyed an emotion mostly due to his mastery of lighting.
It’s not enough to just show what the people in the picture are doing, but to convey the emotion of the situation, and this was Rembrandt’s strength.
As an illustrator myself, and as an artist, and as a story teller, I find Rembrandt to be one of the best to learn from if just for this one single aspect: Conveying the Emotion. Not just through the expressions on the faces he painted but also by the colors he chose, as well as the brush strokes me made. His highest aim was to be reverent to the truth.
Rembrandt: Reverent to the Truth
Rembrandt tells the truth of the emotion with as little information as possible. We, as the audience, fill in the gaps and this makes the experience of viewing the image (hearing/seeing the story) more powerful.
It’s a form of manipulation and when advertisements use it to sell us their new drink or medicine or shoe, we think of it as slightly evil. It isn’t evil at all. It’s not even bad to sell crap to someone, so long as someone can find value in it. It’s only bad to outright lie about what you’re selling, or the story you’re telling.
In my own illustrations, I look for the nugget of the emotion that is meant to be told, and I aim to focus on that. I’m not concerned with the overall story or the differing opinions. This is especially important to me when I’m illustrating figures of theology. There are loaded opinions, and some very strong ones, surrounding the stories I illustrate. These don’t concern me. Only the moment that I am painting.
So, today, as an illustrator and fine artist (only now a-days is there a distinction between these two titles) I honor Rembrandt for the lessons he teaches, 407 years later.
-Matt & Rebecca Abraxas
to learn from,
or just be entertained by,