Subjects of Rembrandt Etchings

Most Rembrandt etchings fall into one of five categories: Biblical subjects, self-portraits, portraits, landscapes and genre scenes.


Biblical Subjects

Rembrandt’s Biblical subjects comprise a substantial portion of his etching ouvre. They have traditionally been some of the most sought after by collectors and were innovative for their time because of the manner in which they reveal Christ’s interaction with the people of His time.

Presentation in the Temple

Presentation in the Temple


Self-Portraits

In the late 1620s, Rembrandt began to paint and etch his first self-portraits. Throughout his career he produced many subsequent self-portraits in both mediums. Scholars differ as to Rembrandt’s motivation for creating self-portraits. The earliest notion that he could not afford to pay for models has given way to the more cogent idea that in his pursuit of the “psychological portrait,” the desire to reveal the human and spiritual nature of the sitter, he used his own face to more deeply contemplate this revolutionary approach for the time.

Self Portrait in a Flat Cap and Embroidered Dress

Self Portrait in a Flat Cap and Embroidered Dress


Portraits

The vast majority of the portraits Rembrandt etched were meant to be used by the sitter, many of which were friends and acquaintances of Rembrandt’s, as opposed to being sold to the general public. His earliest portraits are rather simple in terms of the techniques and designs used where as later portraits have more elaborate details and more complex compositions.

Clement de Jonghe, Printseller

Clement de Jonghe, Printseller


Landscapes

During Rembrandt’s lifetime prints of the Dutch landscape were extremely popular, and he too used the Dutch landscape as a subject. The inspiration for a large portion of his landscape etchings came from Amsterdam and the surrounding areas; however, Rembrandt is known for putting imaginary elements in the landscapes such as mountains and foreign buildings. While Rembrandt completed most of the landscape etchings indoors by using his drawings as a reference, the spontaneous lines in a few of the etchings indicate that he may have, on occasion, etched outdoors while at the actual location.

Landscape with a Cow Drinking

Landscape with a Cow Drinking


Genre Scenes

Rembrandt created several etchings that depict everyday scenes, also called genre scenes, and often used street characters such as rootless musicians, beggars and the homeless as his subjects. The compassion he used while portraying these individuals was not the norm at the time. Rembrandt’s series of male and female nudes fall under the category of genre as well. Contrary to the majority of his contemporaries who focused on the classical ideal of beauty, Rembrandt depicted his models realistically, revealing their bodies’ flaws.

The Strolling Musicians

The Strolling Musicians


Learn more about Rembrandt and the Art of Etching

3 Responses to Subjects of Rembrandt Etchings

  1. Old Print says:

    I have always really enjoyed Rembrandt’s etchings. I’ve always felt that his works are like snapshots of a day in the life of this master, without glamorizing the scene, without exaggeration.

    Many of them are much more impressive in person, so check them out if you ever get a chance to where you live.

  2. […] of Catrina Hooghsaet from Penrhyn Castle is on view at National Museum Cardiff alongside original etchings and Netherlandish portraits from Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’ own […]

  3. […] centuries, and were meant to be both entertaining and educational. This graphic pub-crawl in 18 prints and drawings takes in some of the most colourful watering-holes in the Rijksmuseum Print Room […]

Leave a comment

Prove you\'re human. *

Latest News

  • Do You Know How to Take Care of Your Art? Take Our Quiz...

    We love art, and we’re betting you do too. That is why we want to give you some expert tips on how to keep your art looking as beautiful as ...
    Read More
  • Everyone Wants to Take a Bite Out of Artist Matt Beyrer

    Artist Matt Beyrer has an uncanny knack for drawing depth and beauty out of unexpected places.

    So perhaps it’s not surprising that Beyrer’s artistic career began in an unexpected place—on a surfboard.

    Read More
  • The Strange History Behind Salvador Dalí’s “Divine Comedy”

    Salvador Dalí was an unusual choice to illustrate Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy.”Dante’s epic poem is considered one of Italy’s national treasures, a work embraced by both Italian cultural ...
    Read More
  • Collect Original Graphic Works by Salvador Dali in Our New Fall Sale

    Salvador Dalí is one of the most famous artists of the 20th century. Now you have the opportunity to collect works from the internationally renowned Surrealist in our ...
    Read More
  • Meet the Artist: 10 Questions with Patrick Guyton

    Patrick Guyton has combined his passion for ancient art techniques with a tenacious work ethic to create a truly unique body of work.Guyton’s art is a sight to behold. ...
    Read More
  • Park West CEO Provides Insight into ‘Self-Destructing’ Banksy Art

    Famous street artist Banksy has made art history by having one of his paintings elaborately destroy itself immediately after being sold for $1.4 million.The unprecedented stunt took place at Sotheby’s ...
    Read More
  • Park West Auctioneer Spotlight: Alex White

    It takes a special kind of person to head off onto the high seas to spread their love of art to travelers around the world.Alex White is one of those ...
    Read More
  • The History of Picasso Ceramics: How Picasso Changed Pottery Forever

    Between 1946 and 1973, Pablo Picasso created a breathtaking collection of original ceramic works.Over the past 50 years, Park West Museum has developed one of the largest collections ...
    Read More
  • Understanding the Delicate Process Behind the Art of Patrick Guyton

    The artistic process Patrick Guyton uses to create his art is exacting, volatile, and precarious. This may sound hyperbolic, but for Guyton, something as simple as using the wrong ...
    Read More
  • Park West Gallery Enhances the Art Experience with New Interactive Technology

    As Park West Gallery celebrates 50 years in business, it’s continuing its mission of reimagining the art world with new and innovative ways for people to interact with art.Park West ...
    Read More
  • Meet James Coleman: 10 Questions with the Acclaimed Artist

    If you’re not familiar with the name “James Coleman,” you’re definitely familiar with his work.For over 17 years, Coleman supervised the creation of the hand-painted backgrounds for some of ...
    Read More
  • Behind the Artist: Patrick Guyton

    The path to becoming an internationally renowned fine artist might not be paved in gold, and that’s fine with Patrick Guyton—he prefers to put gold to better use.Guyton’s own ...
    Read More