Rembrandt: Complete Etchings

Genre Scenes Rembrandt depicted scenes from everyday lire in more than fifty of his etchings. They reflect his lively interest in such street characters as beggars, quacks and strolling musicians. Pictures like these are traditionally described as 'genre scene'. While they appear to deal with everyday subjects, genre works often have a moralizing tone. Rembrandt, however, generally does not appear to be trying to convey a message. A great many of the genre scenes that Rembrandt etched were done early in his career. Almost all these prints are small. Often they depict no more than a single figure. In a few cases, he worked a street scene out in detail. The Rat-Poison Pedlar is one example. This was one of Rembrandt's most popular prints in the seventeenth century. Unlike his contemporaries, Rembrandt depicted the street figures with great compassion. At the outset of his career Rembrandt made studies of men and women. They were not intended as portraits, but were a way for Rembrandt to practice rendering facial expressions. These heads of striking types are known as tronies. Most of the tronies were made between 1630 and 1640. His parents and other members of the family sat for him. With their wrinkled, lived-in faces they made excellent subjects. The four Oriental heads dating from 1635 are a special group on their own. They are based on prints by Jan Lievens. The inscription on the prints indicates that Rembrandt wanted to improve on Lievens' work. Rembrandt etched more than thirty tronies. In the sixteen-forties Rembrandt etched a number of male nudes. They were probably drawn directly on to the etching plate. The style of drawing is always loose and open. The models have been placed in typical studio poses. His series of female nudes was done around 1660. In contrast to his approach to the male nudes, Rembrandt was now concentrating exclusively on the play of light and shade. The sharp contours of the earlier work have disappeared. Rembrandt often portrayed his models very realistically. Without embarrassment he revealed the flaws and imperfections of the human body. In so doing he was running counter to the received views of art at the time, which were dominated by the classical ideal of beauty in which physical perfection and flawless proportions were the key.


click here to read about Rembrandt's self portraits...


self portraits and family members

genre scenes
single figures and portraits
biblical themes