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Known for his self-portraits and biblical scenes, Dutch artist Rembrandt is considered to be one of the greatest painters in European history.
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Starting in 1628, Rembrandt took on students, and over the years his fame attracted many young artists seeking to learn at his side. Only an estimate of the number of his pupils can be made, since official registers of trainees have been lost, but it is believed that over the course of his career he had fifty or so students.
Rembrandt began to do business in 1631 with Hendrick Uylenburgh, an Amsterdam entrepreneur who had a workshop that created portraits and restored paintings, among other activities. Rembrandt either commuted from Leiden to Amsterdam or moved to Amsterdam at this stage. He began to paint dramatic, large-scale biblical and mythological scenes using his high-contrast method of light and dark, such as The Blinding of Samson (1636) and Danaë (1636). (Despite his predilection for biblical imagery, it is unknown if Rembrandt belonged to any religious community.)
In Amsterdam, he also painted numerous commissioned portraits with the help of various assistants in Uylenburgh’s shop. Rembrandt produced much more energetic works than those created by the portrait artists so prevalent in Amsterdam at the time, and he received numerous commissions despite his questionable ability to capture the likeness of his subject. To this point, Constantijn Huygens, a Dutch diplomat, mocked a portrait Rembrandt had done of one of his friends for its lack of verisimilitude, and Rembrandt's self-portraitures contained noticeable physiognomic differences from one image to the next.
In the 10 years following the unveiling of The Night Watch, Rembrandt's overall artistic output diminished drastically and he produced no painted portraits; either he received no portrait commissions or he stopped accepting such commissions. Speculation about what happened after The Night Watch has contributed to the "Rembrandt myth," according to which the artist became largely misunderstood and was ignored. Often blamed for Rembrandt's supposed downfall are the death of his wife and the supposed rejection of The Night Watch by those who commissioned it. But modern research has found no evidence that the painting was rejected or that Rembrandt experienced deep devastation upon his wife's death. There is also no evidence that he was ever "ignored," although he was often the target of his contemporary critics' barbs.
It has been put forth that Rembrandt's crisis may have been an artistic one, that he had seen his methods stretched to their practical limits. And the variations in his few paintings from 1642 to 1652—the period that marks the beginning of what is usually referred to as Rembrandt's "late style"—might be seen as a sign that he was searching for a new way forward.
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