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February 24th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Born:  July 15, 1606, Leiden, Netherlands

1631: Moves to Amsterdam

1634: Marries Saskia


  • Rumbartus died two months after his birth in 1635
  • Cornelia died at 3 weeks of age in 1638
  • Second daughter, also named Cornelia, living barely over a month died in 1640
  • Titus born in 1641. Died in 1668 (the year he married)

1642: Saskia Dies

1642: Begins relationship with Geertje Dircks

1647: Hendrickje Stoffels joins household as maidservant

1650: Rembrandt has Dircks detained in the Gouda house of correction

1654: Hendrickje Stoffels gives birth to Cornelia

1662: Hendrickje Stoffels dies

1664: The painter Christiaen Dusart is appointed guardian of Cornelia van Rijn

1668: Rembrandt moves in with Cornelia

Dies: Oct. 4, 1669, Amsterdam

Why Rembrandt? Didn’t he lose all relevance by the end of the 1990’s? – Yes but…

<<<tangent>non-sequitur>childish garble>I recently spent a week in community organizing and leadership training. The program was set up in the usual Saul Alinsky tradition (negotiating self-interested power). At the end of the first day everyone was asked to name a hero or mentor. I really did not mean to answer incorrectly –  when it was my turn I named Rembrandt because he was one of my first inspirations when I was a teen. They just thought I was playing with them. They expectied something like Martin Luther King, a politician or union leader, but not an artist. I felt a bit obligated to attempt to defended my choice by saying that I choose Rembrandt because he changed the western worlds way of seeing, and if you change the way people see, you change a culture of behavior. It didn’t go over well. They were serious and the discussion was about power v power and I chose Rembrandt. <<</tangent>/non-sequitur>childish garble>

Anyhow, Rembrandt opened and closed an era. You might even say he closed the market on the individual. And the marks he left on his late canvases opened new eras for others to explore. His pursuit of a persons persona was engulfed in his materials and his process. Carravagio may have conveyed the sense of “touch” through the image, but Rembrandt conveyed it through the paint.

Despite his official portraits of prominent figures and guild work which I have no affinity for, or his allegorical work which I think are atrocious, his self-portraits and the work he did of those he had an intimate relationship (Saskia, Hendrickje, and Titus) are another thing altogether.

When looking at the arc of Rembrandt’s career you can see how he moved with extraordinary confidence from rendering a persons image and likeness with amazing luminosity, to rendering marks, left by his touch, as the carrier of identity in his later work. In the arc of the progressive tradition Rembrandt changed where we are likely to find the “first principle” expressed. Prior to Rembrandt, Martin Luther advanced the progressive interest by challenging the papacy’s power to broker the relationship between an individual and God (the first principle). Martin Luther empowered individuals to negotiate their own relationship to the first principle. This empowerment of the individual, along with economic and technological forces, gave rise of a merchant class in the Netherlands. Rembrandt began his career during this rise and produced a body of work focused on sublimating the image and likeness of those individuals. But by the end of his career Rembrandt had decouple that identity from the image and placed it in his touch. Now the mark – the touch of the artist, was the carrier of the first principle.

Walking Directions from Leiden to Amsterdam via google maps.

41.6 km (25.8 miles) – about 8 hours 27 mins
Go to Google and View Larger Map
Categories: What I am Looking at
  1. March 29th, 2010 at 15:06 | #1

    I find it totally absurd that your seminar participants didn’t get the Rembrandt reference. That kind of screaming ignorance is a huge problem with activism.

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