Why Is Rembrandt Ranked Among The First "Modern" Artists?

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Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rihn (1606–1669) broke new ground in the use of light and shadow, free brushstrokes, and depiction of people of all classes, not just the wealthy who were able to commission portraits. His realistic paintings, etchings (drawings printed from an etched metal plate), and prints demonstrated psychological insight into the people he portrayed. In these ways Rembrandt's work resembled what would later be called "realistic modern art," though in his own time he was criticized for his artistic methods. Among his most famous works are The Syndics of the Cloth Guild (1662) and The Return of the Prodigal Son (c. 1665). The Syndics shows the board of directors of a company going over their account books. Rembrandt captured the moment when the six businessmen are interrupted, thus realistically depicting an everyday scene. The Return of the Prodigal Son is based on a parable (story with a lesson) told by Jesus of Nazareth (the founder of Christianity) in the New Testament of the Bible. According to the story, a young man leaves home and lives foolishly; he then repents (feels regret) and returns to a joyful welcome from his father. Rembrandt's depiction of the contrite (regretful) son kneeling before his forgiving father is considered one of the greatest religious paintings.

Further Information: Bonafoux, Pascal. A Weekend with Rembrandt. New York: Rizzoli International, 1992; Ergas, Aimee G. Artists: From Michelangelo to Maya Lin. Detroit: U•X•L, 1995; Halliwell, Sarah, ed. The Seventeenth Century: Artists, Writers, and Composers. Austin, Tex.: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1998; Pescio, Claudio. Rembrandt and Dutch Painting of the Seventeenth Century. Lincolnwood, Ill.: NTC Contemporary Publishing, 1995; Rembrandt Research Committee. [Online] Available http://www.veritus.com/rembrandt/index.htm, October 23, 2000; Rembrandt Research Project. [Online] Available http://amsterdam.park.org/Netherlands/pavilions/culture/rembrandt/, October 23, 2000.