earliest period. In later works, we see him celebrating his new success, then emulating the old masters by taking on
a pose used by Titian.
Rembrandt, Self-portrait, 1628 Rembrandt, Self-portrait, 1659
The portraits from the end of his life—Rembrandt died in 1669 at the age of sixty-three—are the most poignant,
reflecting at some times his dignity and at other times his feebleness. The self-portrait done in 1659 shows how
honestly Rembrandt observed his own face. Like most of the self-portraits, this is a half-length portrait, with soft
spots of light on Rembrandt’s face and hands. Along with the paintbrush, Rembrandt used a palette knife to pile up
paint in rough patches and add texture to his face. This technique is called impasto; when viewed in raking light,
the paint actually stands up from the surface of the canvas. Rembrandt became famous for this “rough manner” of
painting, and he taught it to his many students.
Rembrandt received a number of commissions from organizations for group portraits. Group portraiture presents
a real challenge to the artist because it is necessary to show each individual clearly, but without monotonously lining
everyone up (think of most team pictures you’ve seen). Frans Hals tried to enliven the group portrait by giving the
sitters more active poses. Rembrandt went a step further by putting the figures in a dramatic setting. His most
famous group portrait is known as The Night Watch. The portrait shows the civic guard company of Captain Frans
Banning Cocq as if it were being called to arms. Although the portrait is not truly a night scene (it seemed to be so
before the painting was cleaned), Rembrandt used light to effectively spotlight the most important characters and
to illuminate the faces of the company’s members. The drummer on the right and the little girl running amid the
men to the left add to the scene’s sense of excitement.
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