Rembrandt, Peter Segasby’s Favourite Artist

The Love of Art – A feeling beyond words!


Who Was Rembrandt?

I’m Peter Segasby an artist based in Lincoln with an insatiable appetite and love of art. I’m delighted to write this article about my favourite artist Rembrandt, just to give a tiny insight to this very special 17th Century artist. I’m often asked “What makes you so passionate about art and especially paintings by the old masters such as Rubens and Rembrandt?” My stock response is always “It’s an indescribable feeling of mixed emotions”. However, as a foundation to this articles, I will attempt to share the emotions I’ve experienced in more detail. Below shows the results of me imitating two of Rembrandt’s most famous portrait paintings!

Artist: Peter Segasby. Oil painting on Canvas Portrait of Saskia van Uylenburgh (1612-1642)
An Old Man in Military Costume by artist Peter Segasby

Saskia van Uylenburgh was the wife of painter Rembrandt van Rijn. In the course of her life she was his model for some of his paintings, drawings and etchings. She was the daughter of a Frisian mayor. Asteroid 461 Saskia is named in her honour.

After Rembrandt by Peter Segasby artist.

An Old Man in Military Costume. (Rembrandt’s Father). The subject, who appears in different guises in several other paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn and his contemporaries, wears a plumed hat and metal breastplate. His military costume may symbolize Dutch strength and patriotism during the struggle for independence from Spain.

My excitement when visiting an art exhibition can only be described like meeting a lover for the first time – the anticipation of a romantic meeting – a tangible sense of attraction, excitement and mixed trepidation. Getting up close to see the fine detail, unravelling with your eyes as you explore the canvas, whilst at the same time, feeding the imagination and admiring the content, technique and draughtsmanship – the paint surface – a single framed image telling the story, combined with a sense of history and the life of the artist – is a bubbling pot of sheer emotion, influenced by an analytical mind eagerly exploring the truth and secrets behind the image.

Perhaps, you can now understand why I sometimes resort to a simple response when challenged to define what makes me passionate about art. My imagination takes me on a journey, drifting in and out of the possible realities. The describable truth is only part of the story, I sometimes feel exhausted having met with real genius in the true sense of the word. I’m humbled, sometimes drawn to tearfulness; and as a living artist I come away feeling certain inadequacies about my own abilities to be creative.
I am a romantic; an artist so it’s a pleasure explaining about the artists I truly love. Equally, I would welcome your views and opinions, no matter how frank! Do take the opportunity and respond to this editorial, especially if you have experienced similar emotions.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn – Born Leiden, Netherlands 15th July 1606 – 1669 below shows 8 pieces of his amazing work.

Rembrandt painting of Nicolaes Ruts
Rembrandt painting of Eremiah Lamenting the destruction of jerusalem.webp
Rembrandt painting of the storm on the sea of galilee
Rembrandt painting of the man with the golden helmet

After reading Rembrandt’s biographies, visiting his exhibitions and seeing his work close-up, and imitating two of his most famous portrait paintings, I feel a strong sense of connection and empathy with the artist. There’s lots written about Rembrandt, naturally, because of his undisputed genus of self-portraits, portraits and biblical scenes’, he is certainly one of the greatest painters in the history of European art. In this context, I personally want to explore his ordinary everyday life in artistic pursuits rather than his documented genius.

Rembrandt was the second youngest of nine or more children of a miller, Harmen Gerritsz van Rijn, and a baker’s daughter. Age thirteen Rembrandt enrolled at the Latin school Leiden University and promptly left after a few months to pursue his true passion as a painter. First serving a three year apprenticeship with painter Jacob Isaacsz Van Swanenburgh who studied in Italy and in 1624 he moved to Amsterdam to work with Pieter Lastman, a painter of biblical, mythological, and historical scenes – Lastman’s ability to tell a story visually impressed the young Rembrandt. Pictured below: Stoning of St. Stephen shows how Rembrandt at age 19, shows a successful imitation of the style of Lastman, who died 1633.

Painting of Rembrandt and his wife Saskia in the scene of the prodigal son.
Rembrandt painting of a women wading in a pool
Rembrandt painting of him laughing
Rembrandt painting of young scholar and his tutor

1625 Rembrandt was also working independently in Leiden, associated with Jan Lievens (1607–1674), also a student of Lastman, both used the same models and worked on each other’s paintings. Even in their lifetime it was difficult to identify who painted which work.
Around 1632 Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, where he had already achieved recognition as a portraitist. His career further prospered after his engagement and marriage to a well-to-do young woman, Saskia van Uijlenburgh. In 1639 the young couple set themselves up in a fine house in the Breestraat, now maintained as a museum, the Rembrandthuis.

Rembrandt collected works of art, armour, costumes, and curiosities from far places, some of these objects were used as props in his paintings and etchings. Examples of which are shown in the painting of Rembrandt‘s father dressed in Military Costume (See image on right).

Rembrandt’s works purposefully challenged the enormous reputation of the painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640). This is most expressed in the scenes from the Passion of Christ (1633–1639)

Rembrandt’s major life disasters
Rembrandt had three children who died in infancy. Saskia his first wife gave birth in September 1641 to a fourth child, Titus, and she died soon after in June 1642. His former housekeeper and lover Hendrickje Stoffels, first mentioned in connection with Rembrandt in 1649, remained with him until her death in 1663. She left a daughter, Cornelia, born to them in 1654. Evidence from 1653 and later, showed Rembrandt had financial difficulties and had to auction some of his prized possessions in December 1657. Three years later Rembrandt, Titus, and Hendrickje had to moved to a much smaller house. Titus died 1668.

The first Anglo-Dutch War in 1652-54; when England battled the Dutch Republic; compounded by Rembrandt’s painting style falling out of favour, contributed to his financial difficulties. So much so, Rembrandt’s later years of life were extremely difficult and poor. However, the lonely Rembrandt continued to paint regardless, still producing some incredibly important work. His last Self-Portrait is dated 1669. He died in Amsterdam October 4, 1669 and his painting, Simeon with the Christ Child in the Temple, was left unfinished on his easel.
January 2015, I visited the National Gallery London to see Rembrandt’s late work (last 10 years), breathtaking, goosebumps and the feelings I conveyed earlier.

This article is not about a historical account of Rembrandt’s life or a chronological list of his works, however important; hopefully it reveals a true sense of his commitment to art, a man with a passion who lived and breathed art until he died, regardless of the difficulties and obstacles he had to overcome. I hope this extremely short overview uncovers some aspects of Rembrandt and his life as a painter and as a man of great fortitude.

Rembrandt dressed his subjects from his own collection of items, they would be transformed to Royal Artisans with rich furs, silks, fabrics, head-ware, uniforms, spears, everything to convey the appropriate story.

For many years as an artist I steered away from imitating the great works of Rembrandt, until several years ago when I painted two of his most loved subjects; Saskia his first wife and beloved Father, Harmen Gerritsz van Rijn. I thought it may allow me to understand his work better; which I did!

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Peter Segasby Artist