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Today's Featured Biography

Rembrandt

      A heretic in art Rembrandt was to many of his Dutch contemporaries; to us, he is the master, supreme alike in genius and accomplishment. Because, as time went on, he broke completely from tradition and in his work gave full play to his originality, his pictures were looked at askance; because he chose to live his own life, indifferent to accepted conventions, he himself was misunderstood. It was his cruel fate to enjoy prosperity and popularity in his earlier years, only to meet with neglect in his old age. But this he felt probably less than other men; he was not a courtier, with Velasquez, nor vowed to worldly success, with Rubens. His pleasure and his reward, he found in his work. So long as easel and canvas, brushes and paints were left to him, he demanded no greater happiness.

      In Leyden, a town already made famous by another master, Lucas van Leyden, Rembrandt was born in 1606; though this date has been disputed, some authorities suggesting 1607, others, 1608. His family were respectable, if not distinguished, burghers, his father, Harmen Gerritszoon, being a miller by trade, his mother, Neeltjen Willems of Zuitbroeck, the daughter of a baker. Not until early in the seventeenth century did permanent surnames become common among Dutchmen; hitherto children had been given their father's, in addition to their own Christian name; Rembrandt for many years was known as Rembrandt Harmenzoon, or the son of Harmen. But the miller, to be in the growing fashion, had called himse...

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