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

  • New Michael Godard Sale Features More Than 30 Unique Works

    As the “Rock Star of the Art World,” Michael Godard borrows a page from his musical counterparts by searching for new and innovative ways to express himself.“I’ve always admired ...
    Read More
  • Saving Lady Liberty: How Peter Max Helped Restore the Statue of Liberty

    Iconic Pop artist Peter Max has several recurring images that he’s returned to throughout his prolific career, but perhaps none are more famous than the Statue of Liberty. Max ...
    Read More
  • 5 Years Ago, Peter Max Transformed a Cruise Ship Into a Work of...

    In 2013, artist Peter Max watched a cruise ship pull into a New York City harbor.It was a big day. The ship—Norwegian Breakaway—was one of the largest cruise ...
    Read More
  • Watch Alexandre Renoir Evoke ‘Moments of Bliss’ at His Monthaven Arts Exhibition

    As the great-grandson of famous French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alexandre Renoir is carrying on his ancestor’s mission of bringing beauty into the lives of others through art.It’s what Alexandre ...
    Read More
  • VIDEO: How Anatole Krasnyansky’s Art Peers Behind Humanity’s Masks

      There aren’t many artists ...
    Read More
  • Auctioneer Spotlight: Mark Muller and Natasha Moore

    Many Park West collectors develop lasting friendships with our auctioneers and art teams, underscoring our 50-year reputation of connecting people from all walks of life with artwork they love.Here’s a ...
    Read More
  • Don’t Miss These 4 Memorable Works from Our 2018 Summer Sale

    With more than 500 works of art available during Park West’s 2018 Summer Sale, it might seem hard to choose a favorite.It’s understandable—for art lovers, picking a favorite artwork or ...
    Read More
  • Peter Max and The Beatles: Friends, Artists, Icons of the 1960s

    Two of the biggest cultural innovators of the 1960s were artist Peter Max and the legendary rock group The Beatles. But did you know that Max was actually close ...
    Read More
  • Collect the Art of Peter Max During Our Limited-Time Summer Sale

    Peter Max is one of the most iconic living artists today, thanks to his bold color palette, masterful brushstrokes, and cosmic imagery. Now, you can become a part of ...
    Read More
  • Park West Donation Benefits Delaware Military Personnel

    The freedom of speech and expression are critical components to art, which are just a few of the reasons Park West Gallery is proud to support those who fight to ...
    Read More
  • Pat McManus: Painting the Softer Side of Nature

    Artist Pat McManus jokes that he paints wildlife instead of people for one reason: They’re not picky.“I’ve tried painting people—you have to be very accurate with people,” McManus says ...
    Read More
  • How Wyland Became One of the World’s Biggest Marine Wildlife Artists

    As an artist, Wyland is used to working on big canvases.He first rose to fame in the 1980s painting life-size murals of whales—that’s right, life-size whales—on the sides of ...
    Read More