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Published as » Joe's Art Journal No. 1, Jul 23, 1998  next

This series is not intended to be a university course. I am not an art scholar, I am just a painter and art lover only. As lover I will approach one of the works of art the heritage of all mankind has left us, one by one, week after week, as long as I can. I will keep my investigation personal and simple, meant to open your eyes to see for yourself. Words can be used as a means to that end, but it is rather the space between the words that does the work. A great master of the art of appreciation of art, Kurt Rossacher of Vienna, demanded to see with nose first, eyes, tongue, heart, and only at last with the brain.

Your appreciation will give me the power and strength to endure. It is for you and all the great masters that I do this work, and I hope you will enjoy it. So don't hesitate to send me your feedback in order to help me with that goal! This kind of journal is new to the net, so please tell me if the size is ok (images are great, but big!).

As I am writing in a foreign language, I am not sure to express myself correctly, but I hope you will be able to guess what I mean any time.

Masterpiece of Rembrandt: Bathsheba

I will start this series with one of my favorite masters, one of the most famous painters in the western world, the name of whom almost everybody knows: Rembrandt (see › biography).

The painting selected is named Bathsheba, located today in Paris, Louvre, done 1654, sized 142*142cm or 56*56". It is important to imagine the size of a work. You will never get the impression of the original if you look at a reproduction on the screen or in a book. Imagine the room, too, that this painting demands, the distance you will keep, how you feel when approaching very near, what the impression might be when seen from some distance.

The dimensions show that the persons are at least real sized. This is the picture of a ripe woman with her maid, drying one of her feet after the bath. Acknowledge that it has become almost unknown in our modern, western, PR-driven visual culture, that women can and do look this way, let alone be beautiful.

Short biography of Rembrandt

Born 1606, July 15, in Leiden, Netherlands. Father Harmen Gerrtsz. van Rijn was miller and calvinist, mother was catholic. Rembrandt was the 8th of 9 children.

1609 brought a cease fire in the war with Spain lasting since 1568, bringing wealth and finally, in 1648, independence. At age 14, after 7 years of latin school, he became apprentice of painter Jacob van Swanenburgh, having studied for some months only at the university of Leiden. His master painted mostly hell scenes inspired by Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Breughel. 4 years later, he switched to Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam, noted painter of historical paintings, for 6 months only, to start his own career in Leiden together with a colleague, Jan Lievens. Three years later, the first eminent collectors turn up, written comments about him still exist from that time.

In 1630, his father died. A year later, Amsterdam art dealer Hendrik van Uylenburgh borrowed 1.000 florins from Rembrandt. In that year, Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam to live with Uylenburgh, the latter probably having persuaded the artist with better opportunities. He did many portraits, but also pictures of the passion of Christ. In 1634, Rembrandt married a cousin of Hendrik, Saskia van Uylenburgh, a wealthy orphan. The first three children died shortly after birth. At age 33, he bought a magnificent house for 13.000 florins. A year later, his mother died. The next year, 1641, Titus was born, their only child to grow up. A year later Saskia died, Titus being 9 months old.

Rembrandt engaged a widow to look after him, Greetje Dirx, who soon became his mistress. 7 years later, a young maid named Hendrickje Stoffels joined the household and became Rembrandts mistress, so Greetje left and sued Rembrandt for breach of promise. He showed up at court only after being called three times. He managed not to have to marry her, but he had to pay her 160 florins once in 1649 and 200 florins each year thereafter until her death. There is no artistic work known of this year. Rembrandt managed to get her assigned in a house of correction through bribery the year after. Although he threatened a lot, her friends liberated her in 1655, she seems to have died the next year.

It was clear by 1653, that he could not afford his living any more. His debt from the house was still 7.000 florins, he owed the interest and part of the taxes. In July 1654, Hendrickje had to show up at the church consistory. She confessed to live in sin with Rembrandt and was severely punished. In October, their daughter Cornelia was born. Rembrandt confessed to be bankrupt in 1656, his possessions were given to his creditors, the listing still exists. In December 1657, an auction startet, lasting 3 weeks. In February, his house was auctioned, too, but he still lived there for 2 years. In autumn, his drawings and etchings were sold, but all the earnings did not reach by far to balance his debt.

In 1660, Rembrandt moved with his family to another house. In December, Titus and Hendrickje opened a gallery as Rembrandt could not sell his work himself anymore. Hendrickje died in 1663, Titus died in 1668, 7 months after his marriage. The next year, a granddaughter was born in March. In October, Rembrandt died, his daughter in law died a few days later, too.


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