We keep our gaze focused on the great Dutch Master, Rembrandt van Rijn. Joachim van Sandrart, in his Teutsche-Academie Der Edlen Bau-Bild-und Mahlerey-Kunst, 1675) made the following harsh observation of Rembrandt:
“It is almost to be wondered at that the excellent Rembrandt van Ryn, springing as he did merely from the flat land and a miller, yet by nature was driven towards noble art…Although he was not a spendthrift, he did not know in the least how to keep his station, and always associated with the lower orders, whereby he also was hampered in his work.”
Rembrandt lost patrons as he began to move more and more into developing light to aid his chosen narrative. What Rembrandt gained in his new fascination with light was a more demonstrated brilliance of storytelling. The narrative in late Rembrandt paintings possess a narrative that radiates outward toward the viewer with a brilliance of light not typical of Rembrandt and, unfortunately for this artist, his new tool of light drove his patrons away leaving him destitute. Rembrandt exacerbated this predicament when he spent enormous time studying the faces of older Jewish men in the district close to his studio. Patrons, becoming more anti-Semetic, were uncomfortable in Rembrandt’s studio surrounded as they felt with portraits of Jewish men in various stages of development.
Rembrandts problems reached a crescendo when, in 1661, the artist received a commission to paint a large banquet scene for Amsterdam’s new City Hall. The light filled narrative that Rembrandt developed was the Conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis. Rembrandt’s dream of pulling himself out of financial ruin ceased when this large painting was removed from its location in the New City Hall and returned to his studio with the command to “fix it”! Rembrandt refused to change his original vision and chose to cut it up into a smaller canvas for ease of sale to another patron. Today the Rembrandt painting, a sad remnant of its former glory, is installed in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden.
What are your thoughts of the demands of patrons that are placed upon artists to “fix their work” because it has somehow fallen into disfavor?
The Conspiracy of the Batavian Under Claudius Civilis, 1661-62)