Woman bathing in a stream | Rembrandt | 1654

Woman bathing in a stream | Rembrandt | 1654

Woman bathing in a stream | Rembrandt | 1654

There is a before and after Rembrandt.

He is born in Leiden, a quiet city in the Netherlands. As his parents were very solvent, he is sent to study Latin and after he is enrolled in the local university. But young Rembrandt is little interested in formal education and left the university to start as an apprentice of a local artist. Sometime after, he moves to Amsterdam, the main port of that time, a metropolis that offers him new experiences and adventures.

He continues studying painting but, due to the protestant reformation, the local churches abandoned the catholic custom of commending artists for works.  The only option he had to earn money is to paint portraits to the wealthy people of the city. In this environment, his reputation grows and he became known in all Amsterdam.

Despite his career never stopped growing, Rembrandt’s life was turbulent: he got married several times and many of his children died as infants. The enormous amount of money he earned was compulsively spent in work from other artists, antiques or weapons to include in his future works.

Regarding his painting, there is characteristic that makes Rembrandt unique: the use of chiaroscuro and the following handling of lights and shadows. Although is usually thought that he was influenced by the work of Caravaggio, it is more likely that he had known the work of the School of Utrecht, which are the Dutch that studied Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro in Italy. Rembrandt would internalize this technique, but he uses very personally.  

The latest work of Rembrandt is recognized by the brushstrokes. While before the artist payed a lot of attention to details, as it was expected in that time; in the latest years, he put aside this convention and chooses to use thick brushstrokes, which makes his paintings effective when looked from a distance. In this moment of his evolution paints Woman bathing in a stream.

It is thought that the woman in the painting is Hendrickje Stoffels, Rembrandt’s maid after the death of his wife. Later on, she is going to become his lover and stay by his side until the day he dies.

Before immersing in the water, the woman has left behind a red dress. She rolls her skirt up and tries the cold water of the stream. Despite the character is completely unaware of the spectator, you don’t feel the distance. The scene of the canvas is intimate and has no sign that it wants to represent a historical of mythical figure. It is just a woman bathing in a stream.

The use of paint is, as we said, spontaneous. Although many think that there are parts of the painting that are not finished (such as the right arm or the left shoulder); we still know that, for the artist, it was completed, because he signed it and dated it.

The thick brushstrokes of the woman’s underwear make a contrast with the soft and detailed skin, granting her a Venus feel, like an ideal figure… and this characteristic, the fusion between the earthly and the spiritual that makes Rembrandt one of the most important painters of all times.

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~ by Álvaro Mazzino on December 3, 2010.

3 Responses to “Woman bathing in a stream | Rembrandt | 1654”

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