"...Hang this picture in a bright light and in such a manner that it can be viewed from a distance. It will then sparkle at its best. "
- Rembrandt 27 January 1639. (quoted in Art in Theory 1648-1815, p 252)
Rembrandt is best known for the psychological complexity of his religious and historical subjects and for the originality of his portraits - group, individual, and numerous self-portraits. His sophisticated use of light and dark heightened the intensity of these non-idealized depictions. He was versatile, creating works with oils as well as graphic work.
Rembrandt attended the local Latin School in Leiden and later Leiden University, where he would have studied literature and history, sources that inspired his painting. He was a pupil of Jacob Van Swanenburgh and later apprenticed with Pieter Lastman a leading history painter in Amsterdam. He never traveled outside Holland, but was influenced by Italian art that circulated in Holland and that he collected. He settled in Amsterdam c. 1631 where he maintained an active studio of apprentices and students. His works were highly valued by collectors.
In the later period of his life, he had some personal misfortunes, the death of his wife and some of their children. He also experienced financial difficulties and he eventually declared bankruptcy. As tastes changed in Holland, the demand for his work declined. With the large number of works attributed to his hand a Rembrandt Research Project was undertaken by Dutch scholars in 1968 to examine and authenticate his corpus.