I'd love to say that I'm smart enough to know this myself, but really, it's thanks to a Google doodle that I know today is Rembrandt's 407th birthday. When I opened my browser this morning to see the Google trademark modified with Rembrandt's classic mug, I smiled.
And I should know it's the master's birthday today. I did a lengthy paper about him in a university art history course. But I've never had a head for details, and what I remember better is the joy I experienced while working on that paper, paging through books and web sites full of glorious images of Rembrant's work.
I grew up looking at Rembrandt's art. His Dutch heritage and evocative depictions of Biblical moments made his art a natural addition to our Dutch-Canadian Christian household. But more than that, I think my parents recognized and admired his work for the artistic brilliance that it was: his masterful use of light and shadow, his attention to detail, and his ability to so vividly depict emotion. Printed reproductions of Mr. van Rijn's work peered at me each day from the walls of our home (that sounds kind of creepy, actually, but it wasn't), and I spent many hours perusing the household books full of his works.
What has always drawn me to Rembrandt's paintings and prints, again and again, is the life and emotion that radiates from his work. It's real emotion: pure joy, love, agony, fear, elation, pain, confusion. Looking at his self-portraits alone will tell you enough about the breadth of life he depicted on paper and canvas. You can spend a very long time with one of his works, unraveling the story and getting drawn into the emotion in the eyes, faces, sinews . . . and even tree trunks.
Art is not stuffy, boring or unapproachable with Rembrandt. Maybe that's why it has always drawn me in. And inspired me to create.