Rembrandt, the Dutch baroque artist, who ranks as one of the greatest painters in the history of Western art
was born in Leiden on July 15, 1606. His father was a miller who wanted
the boy to follow a learned profession. Rembrandt began his studies at the Latin School, and at
the age of 14 he was enrolled at the
University of Leiden. The program did not interest him, and he soon left to study art; first
with a local master and then, in Amsterdam, with Pieter Lastman, known for his historical
paintings. After six months, having mastered everything he had been taught,
Rembrandt returned to Leiden, where he was soon so highly regarded that although barely 22 years
old, he took his first pupils.
Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam in 1631; his marriage in 1634 to Saskia van Uylenburgh, the cousin
of a successful art dealer, enhanced his career, bringing him in contact with wealthy patrons
who eagerly commissioned portraits. In addition, Rembrandt's
mythological and religious works were much in demand, and he painted numerous dramatic
masterpieces such as The Blinding of Samson.
In contrast to his successful public career, however, Rembrandt's family life was marked by
misfortune. Between 1635 and 1641 Saskia gave birth to four children, but only the last,
Titus, survived; her own death came in 1642. Hendrickje Stoffels, engaged as his housekeeper
about 1649, eventually became his common-law wife and was the model for many of his pictures.
Rembrandt had become accustomed to living comfortably. From the time he could afford to, he
bought ancient sculpture, Flemish and Italian Renaissance paintings, Far
Eastern art, contemporary Dutch works, weapons, and armor. By the mid-1650s he was living so far
beyond his means that his house and his goods had to be auctioned to pay
some of his debts. Unfortunately, the results of the auction were disappointing. These problems
in no way affected Rembrandt's work; if anything, his artistry increased. His personal life,
however, continued to be marred by sorrow, for his beloved Hendrickje died in 1663, and his son,
Titus, in 1668. Eleven months later, on October 4, 1669, Rembrandt died in Amsterdam.