Jeff Mohlman | Rembrandt van Rijn’s Complex Mind

A Look Into Rembrandt van Rijn’s Complex Mind by Art Enthusiast Jeff Mohlman

Hey, folks! It’s Jeff Mohlman once again. I’m glad to see you all back here for another post. Today I’d like to talk about one of my favorite painters, Rembrandt van Rijn. His famous works include “The Night Watch,” ‘Return of the Prodigal Son,” and a number of self portraits that depict the artist in various stages of his life.

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For me, his most haunting pieces are his self portraits because one can see different emotions from these portraits, all depending on when they were made. For instance, his early portraits depicted a man who is proud of who he is, what he has become, and what he sees himself becoming as he reaps the rewards of success.

Jeff Mohlman: His early portraits showed a man in affluent garb; proud with an aristocratic, almost snobbish, air. Here we see a man who holds himself in high regard, belonging to the upper echelon of society, among the elite and wealthy. This desire to be regarded in high esteem, among the moneyed class, proved to be his unraveling.

Jeff Mohlman on Rembrandt in later years

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Rembrandt soon became popular and found himself a wealth of sponsors, and perhaps thinking that his rising popularity will never wane, he bought a grand mansion he couldn’t afford. While things looked promising for the artist, everything changed when he lost his first wife. The demands of his work, the manor he couldn’t afford, and the death of his wife all took a toll on him. He struggled with work. His productivity dropped. Soon enough, he was borrowing money to pay for his debts; money which he promised to pay with future works, and works, that never saw the light of day.

Jeff Mohlman: An Interesting Tidbit

Here’s where it gets interesting. When he can no longer pay his debts, his manor and other possessions had to be sold. City authorities visited his home to take stock of all his possessions, and what they found astounded them. I can imagine them staring at the artist’s collection of artifacts with mouths open in shock and disbelief.

Apparently, they discovered a collection of odd bits and pieces. Here’s what they found, and I’m quoting an online article here:

    • four flayed arms and legs
    • a set of Javanese shadow puppets
    • 47 specimens of land and sea animals
    • a “quantity” of antlers
    • a box of minerals
    • a wooden trumpet

They also found sketchbooks filled with drawings, usually of street scenes and depictions of rural Dutch life.

I don’t know about you, but when I learned about these, especially his collection of odd assortments, I imagined a man with a very complex mind; perhaps not as complex as Van Gogh’s but complex nonetheless.

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