Rembrandt, one of the greatest artists of all time, was spectacularly successful in his twenties and thirties, bankrupt by his fifties, and died an unsung death in 1669 at the age of sixty-three. Along the way, he had to bury four of his five children and the two loves of his life, and he had to look on while his patrons chose the predictable but uninspired work of his pupils over his own increasingly innovative style. Yet adversity seemed only to deepen his faith and his genius. His self-portraits, especially, are testimonies to the human spirit, to eyes that can see beyond the confines of the visible world, but also to the human soul, its tenacity and its aspirations, and to the human body, its beauty, its sagging truth, its essential loveliness, whatever its shape or form.

This is a deeply moving and uplifting book. Part biography, part history, part art appreciation, it takes the example of Rembrandt’s life and work as inspiration for the strength we need to live with passion and an unflinching acceptance of who we are.

Roger Housden shows how the incredible life and work of Rembrandt van Rijn can serve as a wise and honest mirror to clarify our own hopes, struggles, and aspirations. The book consists of six lessons that draw on Rembrandt’s self-portraits and life story: Open your eyes; Love this world; Troubles will come; Stand like a tree; Keep the faith; Embrace the inevitable.


Reviews

“More than any other artist in history, Rembrandt bears witness to the ‘eternal joy and struggle of our own human soul and to the poignant bittersweet reality of our physical mortality,’ Housden writes in his accessible meditative guide to the artist’s life, work and meaning for our times. Recollecting how he was profoundly moved by Rembrandt’s Self Portrait, 1669, Housden marvels at the artist’s ability to face himself with intense truthfulness and acceptance. Housden charts the Dutch master’s rise as a successful painter winning lucrative commissions, as well as his tragic domestic life, sexual scandal, fall from professional grace and poverty-stricken old age.” – Publishers Weekly

“Can a great painter’s vision change your life? Housden portrays the Dutch master Rembrandt as a humanist and the world’s first “modern” painter because he painted more self-portraits than any other painter before or since. Rembrandt suffered financial ruin and lost many family members, yet his creative spirit reigned over despair. Declaring that the true purpose of art is the enhancement of self-perception, Housden uses Rembrandt’s masterworks to illustrate the painter’s faith and vision and, by extension, lessons in living for us all. Self-acceptance is the key to discovering our beautiful selves at all life stages, Housden suggests, then provides life lessons in illustrated sections on love, courage, faith, and, perhaps most audaciously in today’s youth-obsessed culture, the visible life experience of age and inevitably of death. This self-help perspective on Rembrandt aims to inspire readers to accept the journey, and the final destination.” – Whitney Scott, Booklist