Robin Urton: dimensional paintings on glass


Dutch Baroque

Rembrandt van Rijn

Rembrandt, "The Nightwatch", 1642
(The Civic Guard of Captain Cocq)

Self Portrait


The Nightwatch is one of Rembrandt's most famous paintings, and marks a turning point in the artist's career. He was at this time the most famous (and wealthy) artist in Holland, but personal circumstances would soon alter his fate. Though he created images of many subjects, it was primarily as a portrait painter that he gained his notoreity. Anyone who had the means wanted the great artist to create their portrait, so most which he created were of members of the new upper class. He had many pupils who helped him to keep up with his unending commissions. Rembrandt had acquired a huge estate full of prescious objects and a large art collection. In 1642, however, his beloved wife, Saskia, died, leaving the artist with a newborn son, Titus (his other 4 children died previous to her death). A woman named Hendrickje Stoffels was taken in to his house to care for his son, and she became Rembrandt's common-law wife. She died in 1663,however, followed by his son in 1669. Left alone, Rembrandt's poor skills at financial management required him to sell off his estate to pay his creditors. With his advancing years, he was less and less interested in painting for the upper class, and many of his best paintings are his self portraits, portraits of loved ones, and those of religous subjects.

Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels, 1659

Portrait of Titus, 1653


Girl at Half-Open Door



See Page of Enlarged Self Portraits

Throughout his life, Rembrandt created nearly 100 self portraits. These are, in my opinion, some of his most expressive paintings, and a great documentary of the changes in his psychological life. It is easy to see his life biography reflected in his countenance. Beginning in his youth, he appears brash and confident. You then see the bearing of his wealth and dignified status emerge. Towards the middle of his career, his worries begin to show in his face. At the end, a very sad, yet still dignified elderly man gazes out at the viewer.




Jan Vermeer

The Milkmaid, 1658

The Art of Painting, 1665

Jan Vermeer was also from Holland, but never ventured from the small town of Delft where he was born. Unlike Rembrandt, he was not famous during his own lifetime. When Vermeer died, his widow sold most of his paintings to pay creditors, as she was left with several children to raise. His genius for creating intimate compositions based on domestic activities was not even discovered until the 19th century. When an art historian bought one of his works, he made it his mission to find out more about the artist. Only 35 paintings have been attributed to Vermeer's hand, yet he is now considered one of the greatest artists of the Baroque period.

Weighing of Pearls

Girl Reading a Letter

One of the things that has always intrigued me about Vermeer's work is the way that light fills the scene, entering from the left side of the canvas. It makes one wonder if all of his paintings were created in a corner of the same room. Though his work is less dramatic than most Baroque artists of his time, there is a certain quiet drama in each of the paintings. It is through the small acts of everyday life (genre scenes) that the private drama of the subject's personal life unfolds.

The Lacemaker, 1671

The Love Letter, 1667

The Geographer, 1669


The Procuress, 1656

Girl With Pearl Earring, 1665

The Girl With Pearl Earring is one of my favorite Vermeer paintings. Though simple in subject, the way that the woman turns to look at the viewer conveys a sense of immediacy. The way the light reflects off of her face has an almost photograpic sense of realism. Her oriental turban and silk garments also remind the viewer of how the Dutch attained most of their wealth through merchant trade with the east. Most of Vermeer's paintings focus on a single person, or two people. The Procuress is an exception, and it is possible that it is not a Vermeer at all, but a Dutch contemporary. Nevertheless, it tells an amusing story of a woman who accepts money in exchange for her womanly favors.


Judith Leyster

Self Portrait

The Proposition, 1631

Judith Leyster, like Vermeer, focused primarily on portraits and genre scenes. It was more difficult for a woman to set up a studio to receive commissions, but not unheard of during the Baroque era. Leyster had actually attained a fair degree of fame during her own lifetime, but was virtually forgotten afterwards. Most of her paintings had been subsequently attributed to other artists, particularly to Frans Hals (who is significantly more famous today). Her painting The Proposition, echos the theme of The Procuress, but presents an alternative story. This time the woman is morally virtuous by ignoring the proposition. I cannot help but wonder if the gender of the artist influenced her take on the theme.

Below is a comparison of one of Judith Leyster's works with those of Frans Hals. The subject of most of her paintings match his pretty well, as they both create portraits which are light-hearted and jovial.

Frans Hals, Laughing Cavalier

Judith Leyster, Serenade

Frans Hals, Jester with Lute