Rembrandt and Leiden’s school of fine painters of the Dutch Golden Age

Edition 28 June 2019, by Benjamin Roberts

On 4 October 1669, Holland’s most famous painter, Rembrandt van Rijn, died an impoverished man, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Amsterdam’s Westerkerk. This year, 350 years after his death, Rembrandt is commemorated in numerous museums throughout the Netherlands.

In Rembrandt’s hometown of Leiden, Museum de Lakenhal goes back to the artist’s roots, and examines the school of painters around him and those who influenced him before he left for Amsterdam in 1632. In this perspective, the galleries of Museum De Lakenhal will display works from Jan van Goyen, Jan Steen and the school of “Fine Painters” that Leiden produced in the Dutch Golden Age, as well as Rembrandt’s earliest works, painted in his Leiden period. The highlight of the exhibition is Rembrandt’s “A Peddler Selling Spectacles” (ca. 1624), painted when the artist was only 17 years old. Another early work from the artist is “History Painting” (1626). It shows that he was experimenting with broad brush strokes, for which he became famous in his later works, and includes a glimpse of himself, as if it was a ‘selfie’. Integrating himself into his works, especially group portraits, would later become one of his trademarks. The most famous of course is the Night Watch (1642), where he stands at the back and we see one eye peeking up. Before leaving his hometown, Rembrandt worked together with his friend Jan Lievens (1607-1674), with whom he shared a studio between 1626 and 1631.

The two experimented and influenced each other’s painting styles and graphics. Afterwards they went off into the wide world. Lievens left for London, where he painted portraits of English aristocrats, while Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, where he portrayed wealthy burghers. The two left Leiden at the zenith of Leiden’s glory. At the time, the city was the place to be for the Dutch art scene and housed many master painters, including landscape painter Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), and seascape painter Jan Porcellis (1583-1632), as well as Jan Davidsz. de Heem (1606-1683/84) and David Bailly (1584-1657), who became wellknown for his vanitas still life paintings. The exhibition also includes works by other Fine Painters from the mid-seventeenth century, such as Jan Steen (1626-1679) who was also from Leiden. In the painting “The Robbed Violinist”, Steen portrayed himself as a poor violin player being robbed. It was one of many paintings in which Steen included himself – no doubt Steen was influenced by Rembrandt’s own selfies.

20 June 2019 – 3 October 2019
Museum De Lakenhal