Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669
“Rembrandt was a Dutch painter and etcher. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history and the most important in Dutch history. His contributions to art came in a period that historians call the Dutch Golden Age. Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, his later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high, and for twenty years he taught many important Dutch painters. Rembrandt’s greatest creative triumphs are exemplified especially in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity. Rembrandt’s greatest creative triumphs are exemplified especially in his portraits of his contemporaries, In his paintings and prints he exhibited knowledge of classical iconography, which he molded to fit the requirements of his own experience; thus, the depiction of a biblical scene was informed by Rembrandt’s knowledge of the specific text, his assimilation of classical composition, and his observations of Amsterdam’s Jewish population. Because of his empathy for the human condition, he has been called one of the great prophets of civilization.”
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Explaining the appeal of Rembrandt paintings
A researcher at the University of British Columbia claims he has figured out why Rembrandt paintings are so appealing to viewers.
“Renaissance artists used various techniques to engage viewers, many incorporating new scientific knowledge on lighting, spatial layout and perspectives. To isolate and pinpoint factors that contribute to the “magic” of Rembrandt’s portraits, DiPaola used computer-rendering programs to recreate four of the artist’s most famous portraits from photographs of himself and other models. Replicating Rembrandt’s techniques, he placed a sharper focus on specific areas of the model’s face, such as the eyes.
Working with a team from the Vision Lab in UBC’s Dept. of Psychology, DiPaola then tracked the viewers’ eye movements while they examined the original photographs and the Rembrandt-like portraits.
“When viewing the Rembrandt-like portraits, viewers fixated on the detailed eye faster and stayed there for longer periods of time, resulting in calmer eye movements,” says DiPaola, who is also an associate professor at Simon Fraser University and adjunct faculty at UBC’s Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre. “The transition from sharp to blurry edges, known as ‘lost and found edges,’ also directed the viewers eyes around the portrait in a sort of narrative.”
…”Through these techniques, Rembrandt is essentially playing tour guide to his viewers hundreds of years after his death, creating a unique narrative by guiding the viewers’ eye,” says DiPaola. “This may explain why people appreciate portraiture as an art form.
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