Rembrandt (1936)



Director: Alexander Korda

Starring:   Charles Laughton (Rembrandt van Rijn),  Elsa Lanchester (Hendrickje Stoffels), Gertrude Lawrence (Geertje Dirx),  Edward Chapman (Fabrizius),  Roger Livesey (Beggar Saul),  John Bryning (Titus van Rijn),  Raymond Huntley (Ludwick), John Clements (Govaert Flinck),  Abraham Sofaer,  (Walter Hudd) (Banning Cocq)

Country:   British film


Story of the famous Dutch painter (Charles Laughton).  


Good movie.  It deals with the two great loves of the famous painter Rembrandt.  It is the 17th century and Holland is a world power.  He loves painting his wife Saskia, but she dies.  Rembrandt is distraught; he does not even attend her funeral.  The Prince of Orange sends his deepest sympathies.

The year is 1642 and Rembrandt finishes his portrait of the Civic Guard.  But the painting shocks its patrons.  The women laugh and the men scowl and everyone makes fun of it.  It is seen as too filled with shadows, darkness and confusion. The major objection from the Civic Guard is that the men do not look noble; they do not look like gentlemen.  But Rembrandt is not interested in making the men look ideal, but portraying them as they really are.  Following the poor reception of his painting, he has a hard time getting commissions.  As even the bum says: "Decent painter, paint decent people."

The movie switches to ten years later.  Rembrandt is bankrupt and has to sell everything.  Rembrandt's friends want him to go to a big reception of the Crown Prince of Orange and his English Stuart bride, tell the Prince that his father was his patron and that he would paint properly.  But instead Rembrandt heads to his father's home in Leyden.  

Rembrandt is not well received at home so he heads back to Amsterdam.  Here he meets the newly hired kitchen maid.  Rembrandt is soon living in sin with her.  The town officials are upset and the kitchen maid is excommunicated.  Once again, Rembrandt is forced to sell all his possessions.  And now he is deeply in debt to his creditors.  To make things worse, there is a law that any money made by the debtor has to go to his creditors.  How is Rembrandt, his son and his girlfriend going to survive given the odds against him?

I liked the movie.  Laughton was very good along with Elsa Lancaster as the girlfriend.  Gertrude Lawrence is good as the shrew of a main housekeeper.  They say great painters have to suffer for their art, but I did not realize a great as painter as Rembrandt had such a rough time of it.  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


1606  --  Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn born into a wealthy family in Leiden, the Netherlands.

As a youngster he went to Latin school and later to the University of Leiden.  But what he wanted was to be a painter.  He became an apprentice to a Leiden history painter, Jacob van Swanenburgh.  Later he was an apprentice to the famous painter Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam. 

He and his colleague Jan Lievens opened a studio in Leiden.

1627  --  Rembrandt began accepting students. One of them was Gerard Dou. 

1629  --  An Artist in His Studio.

1630  --   The Raising of Lazarus.

late 1630  --  Rembrandt painted many landscapes and nature etchings.

By 1631  --  Rembrandt was getting requests for portraits. He moved into the house of art dealer, Hendrick van Uylenburgh, in Amsterdam.

1632  --  Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp. 

1634  --  he married Hendrick's greatniece, the orphaned Saskia van Uylenburg.

1636  --  The Blinding of Samson.

1639  --  Rembrandt and Saskia moved to a prominent house in the Jewish quarter (now the Rembrandt House Museum). 

1640  --  his paintings became more serious reflecting personal tragedies, like the death of three of his children shortly after birth. 

1642  --  The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq (aka, the Night Watch). 

1642  -- their son Titus was born.  But Saskia died soon after giving birth, probably from tuberculosis.

He began an affair with Titus's nurse, the widow Geertje Dircx. Geertje, however, told the council that Rembrandt had broken his promise to marry her.  She wanted the council to force him to marry her. Instead, Rembrandt was forced to pay her a lot of money. 

Turn about is fair play, as he then cooperated with Geertje's family to have her locked up in a house of correction in Gouda

1640s  --  Rembrand took a mistress, the much younger maidservant Hendrickje Stoffels.

1674-1650  --   William II of Holland's House of Orange.

1650-1702  --  William III of the House of Orange.

1654   --  they had a daughter, Cornelia.  The Reformed church issues an official reproach to Hendrickje Stoffels for "living in sin."

1656  --  because he lived beyond his means, Rembrandt went bankrupt.  He sold his house and moved to a cheaper residence on the Rozengracht.  He opened an art shop.  On the happier side, he was asked to paint a large history piece for the newly built city hall.

1664  --  Lucretia.

1669 Return of the Prodigal Son.

Titus died and Rembrandt had a hard time recovering from the blow. 

1669   --  soon after the death of Titus, Rembrandt died.

1688  -- the Glorious Revolution, where William II of Orange and his wife Mary Stuart become William and Mary of England and Scotland.


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