Inside Rembrandt’s Studio


Earlier in the Summer, I took an impromptu trip to see ‘Late Rembrandt‘.

It was the first time that an exhibition had been solely dedicated to Rembrandt’s late works. Many of the most famous paintings that he produced in the last 15 years of his life had been brought together from museums and private collections across the globe.

This period is often the most celebrated due to Rembrandt’s development of a more gestural, impressionistic style and this was some 200 years before the popularity of the Impressionists.

He was out there!

I’d missed the exhibition when it was on show in London at the National Gallery but for the final leg of the tour it was going home to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Heavy dark shadows, hidden brooding eyes, thick scratchy textured marks, lots of Brown umbers and a dirty yellow varnish glow are all the things that excite me about Rembrandt’s self-portrait style.

With the allure of Nutella Waffles, the opportunity to visit Rembrandt’s Studio and the once in a lifetime chance of seeing so many Rembrandt’s up close together, how could I resist…

Rembrandt’s early years

rembrandt 3

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born on 15 July 1606 in Leiden, Holland.

His parents were both Millers and despite having a large family, took their children’s education seriously with Rembrandt attending Latin school followed by University at Leiden.

He didn’t stay at the University long and switched subjects to focus on his passion for art.

His apprenticeship started under the tutelage of Jacob van Swanenburgh, although Swanenburgh’s studio was based in Leiden, he had previously travelled extensively throughout Italy for many years absorbing the painting style of the Italian Renaissance. He incorporated these techniques into his teaching methods which then influenced Rembrandt’s own style.

Rembrandt studied with Swanenburgh for three years before heading to Amsterdam to study under one of the most famous painters of the day Pieter Lastman.


The Triumph of Mordecai, Pieter Lastman, 1617

Lastman was particularly taken by the strong light and dark effects created in the paintings of Caravaggio, known as Chiaroscuro – (Pronounced: key-ARE-oh-SCURE-oh)

These dramatic plays of extreme darks with just odd glints of bright highlights would influence Rembrandt’s portrait style throughout his entire life but interestingly Rembrandt never actually travelled to Italy. He was an exceptionally fast learner and after six months, having mastered everything he had been taught, returned to Leiden to set up his own studio and take on his own students.

Lastman was well respected and attracted other talented pupils to apprentice with him, another of Lastman’s students alongside Rembrandt was the painter Jan Lievens.

Jan Lievens was somewhat of a child prodigy who had a natural aptitude for drawing and painting. He started his apprenticeship aged just 8 and would later become a close friend of Rembrandt’s.

The techniques of Rembrandt vs Lievens

To give us a glimpse into his character and the type of painting techniques Rembrandt was using early on, it’s interesting first to look at a portrait of Rembrandt painted by Jan Lievens. Here we have two painters, learning the same approaches and techniques but with their own different interpretations.

jan lievens portrait of Rembrandt

Portrait of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Jan Lievens, Oil on panel, 57 x 44 cm, 1628.

You can see that the painting by Jan Lievens of Rembrandt is very much in the style favoured of this period. The face is well illuminated from one single light source, the background is in dark shadow and the palette is very muted. It also flatters Rembrandt, both in the soft light source and his features.

Here is a Rembrandt self-portrait from the same year

rembrandt self portrait 1628

Self Portrait, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1628

Rembrandt has taken the lights and darks to the extreme, instead of brightly illuminating the eyes he plunges them into darkness, so us the viewer, have to peer closer to see who is staring straight back at us.

You can also start to see the differences in paint handling when you get up closer to the paintings.

Jan Lievenscloseupportrait

In Lievens painting, you can see a thin smokey application of the general tone of muted brown. It appears on the shadow side of the face, the top of the hair and on the edges of the armour. This would have been the initial colour painted over the entire canvas. (Rembrandt often used a slightly duller grey). He’s then subtlety built up the colours into the face leaving the shadow side thin and the lights more impasto.


Here Rembrandt is using the same technique of adding details with the brush, but the paint application is much thicker. This difference in thickness enables more valleys of paint to be created, and this comes in handy when glazing over with darker pigments, but note how the colour palette is very similar for both artists.

Jan Lievens hair detail with brush

Detail, Portrait of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Jan Lievens.

Lievens has used the pointed end of his wooden paint brush to scratch the shapes and curls of the hair into the wet paint surface.


Self Portrait (detail), Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1628

Rembrandt has used the same technique – just bolder.


Notice how the dark glaze has pooled into the crevices created by pulling the brush handle through the paint.

painting drapery with glazes

Detail, Portrait of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Jan Lievens.

Lievens has used the same technique of overglazing with a brown glaze over the white, but because the initial white impasto isn’t as thick, it gives a more subtle effect to the drapery.

Amsterdam light & Rembrandt’s house

rembrandts housesign

In 1631, the two young painters parted ways having shared a studio space in Leiden. Lievens to England and Rembrandt, aged 25, moved back to Amsterdam to set up his own portrait studio.

Initially, he stayed with art dealer Hendrick van Uylenburgh, his business was growing in success and wealthy patrons were eagerly commissioning his portraits alongside much larger scale mythological and religious works such as this painting below known as The Night Watch.


The Night Watch, Rembrandt van Rijn, Oil on Canvas 1642 (363 cm × 437 cm)

He was much in demand and in 1639 (now happily married to Saskia van Uylenburgh Hendrick’s cousin) he moved to a prominent, grand newly built house in the upcoming ‘Breestraat’ district.

Rembrandt thought this house would be perfect, it combined an elegant gallery selling space, a teaching space for students, a studio space for him to paint in and a home for his family.

Almost 400 years later and the building has undergone massive restoration, now acting as the Rembrandt House Museum

The interiors have been carefully restored using historical knowledge, the best-educated guess as to how Rembrandt used the spaces is interesting but the one thing I had come to specifically see, the one thing that couldn’t have been altered, is the way the light falls into the studio space.

Having researched Rembrandt’s lighting for my own studio build – Art Studio Lighting Design (how to avoid being kept in the dark) it was extremely interesting to see how the natural light behaved compared to a photograph of it.

Rembrandts studio

Rembrandt’s Studio

It was a lot softer and more flattering than I initially thought it would be. Most of the windows were without shutters the day I visited, creating a long rectangular soft light that wrapped around the face.

It’s hard to know how many of the windows Rembrandt would have kept dark whilst he painted, I imagine he would have controlled the light depending on the feel and mood of the portrait he was after.

Will Kemp Rembrandt

Diffused Light in the studio

Interestingly from the minute I had arrived in Amsterdam, I noticed the play of light everywhere we went. The architecture and network of streets allow shafts of light to fall in small pools and shapes. There were snapshot views around every corner that seemed to look like a Rembrandt or a Vermeer painting!

street lighting

In this photo, the natural light seems to defy light logic. If you look at the light hitting the top of the step you’d assume that same light would then hit the railing but this is actually in shadow.

Then half of the bikes are in light and half in shadow and you have these very angular almost cut out shapes of light hitting the pavement. The narrow canal streets with tall irregular buildings mixed with a strong clean light are beautiful.

amsterdam buildings

rembrandt pigments

rembrandts objects

There are curiosities and props that are similar to the ones listed in the inventories of the house, Rembrandt would have collected as the reference for his paintings and as a Museum, it’s a fascinating glimpse into how people lived in this era.

Rembrandt's etchings

Rembrandt had initially bought the house for thirteen thousand guilders, a huge sum, which he could not come up with in its entirety. He was, however, allowed to pay it off in instalments and although he was earning a lot of money with his commissions, it appears his spending was always one step ahead of his income eventually leading to Bankruptcy in 1656.

Late Rembrandt

Late Rembrandt

Rembrandt’s later years were burdened with debt, the loss of his wife and 3 of his children but his paintings continued. Throwing himself into his work Rembrandt produced some of his most personal, deeply moving and contemporary works often referred to as the finest works of Rembrandt’s career.

From the 1650s until his death in 1669, Rembrandt pursued an artistic style that was expressive and radical. His bold manipulation of printing and painting techniques and progressive interpretations of traditional subjects inspired generations of artists, earning him a reputation as the greatest master of the Dutch Golden Age.

‘The Late Works’ examines the themes that preoccupied Rembrandt as he grew older: self-scrutiny, experimentation, light, observation of everyday life and even other artists’ works; as well as expressions of intimacy, contemplation, conflict and reconciliation.

National Gallery, London

For the majority of the show I spent my time with my face as close to the paintings as possible, this wasn’t just due to the huge number of people visiting the exhibition, but for me, I always really want to see the paint handling up close.


The Jewish Bride, Rembrandt van Rijn, Oil on Canvas, 1658

If you want to achieve a Rembrandt effect with your impasto, you need to go thick.

Rembrandt’s painting of The Jewish Bride is a great choice for getting up close to see how he actually applied the paint to the canvas, and then how he manipulated the optical effect by combining thick impasto paint with thinner translucent glazes.

He would have used a fast drying white such as Lead white to build up the thick paint.

There are some reports of traces of flour in his paint mixes.

It is said, flour could have been mixed in with the paint to speed up the drying – my guess would be these paintings would have just been left over at mum and dads for the weekend and attracted flour to the surface from the atmosphere of the flour mill.

He most likely added Calcium carbonate to the white, which is essentially chalk (it can also be called Whiting). It is used to speed up the drying time and creates a more opaque paint as oil paintings become more translucent with age.

the Jewish Bride detail

When you look at the golden sleeve you can see the same technique that was apparent in his early work, just more pronounced. The thick paint is applied with a palette knife and when the glazes are then applied, they sink into these grooves.

It’s a very simple yet effective technique and it’s very easy to replicate using acrylics due to the fast drying time of the paints.

Old Woman Reading

Old Woman Reading, Rembrandt van Rijn, Oil on Canvas, 1655

In this beautiful painting of an Old Woman Reading what is interesting again is how dark he has painted the eyes. When you squint your eyes at the piece, notice how just the triangle of the nose comes out at us. The rest is really, really subdued, with just the subtle indication of the light-fall.

Rembrandt - Self Portrait J910070

Self-Portrait, Rembrandt van Rijn, Oil on Canvas, 1659-1660

This self-portrait was my favourite piece in the show, I love the composition, the colour tones used and the paint handling on the face.

His self-portraits have a more contemporary feel to them, they feel like he painted them for the sheer pleasure of creating. He didn’t have to please a sitter or conform to the styles of the age.

Rembrandt created nearly one hundred self-portraits during his lifetime and they act as a visual timeline of his techniques and influences. When I’m painting a self-portrait, it’s often when experimenting with a new method and I’m super excited to get going, so that’s why it’s so fascinating to see other artists self-portraits.

Rembrandt - Self Portrait J910070

When we take a closer look you can start to see the grey tones on the edges of the face around the eyes and around the chin.

You can see how these greys are very close to the background grey tone.

This helps to balance the face within the whole painting and send these areas of the head structure further back into the background of the piece. When you have the warmer flesh tones on top, they come forward and give a more realistic sense of the face.

Rembrandt - Self Portrait J910070

It’s super sketchy up close and I absolutely love how he’s handled the hair.

From a distance it really looks like a head of individual hairs, up close, is just scrappy grey undertone with an impasto gestural brush-stroke over the top.

Using a stiffer bristle brush to move the paint around in your work, can create an optical mix where the criss-cross brush stokes drag the paint together and leave the texture showing, rather than smoothing the transition together.

He most likely created a Grisaille under-painting for this portrait, after first establishing the big form shapes with simple dark tones, then building up the piece with thicker and more saturated colours.

Over time, the yellow in the Dammar Varnish has discoloured the painting, so it has more of a yellow glow, meaning the grey/green tones in the cool areas of the paintings would have initially been less green and bluer. I personally love the effect of the ‘yellowing’ as it brings and softens all the colours together, especially in a Rembrandt when you have a base colour of reds and Burnt umbers.

Many beginners paint too thinly and put out too little paint.

With acrylics, this can be particularly crucial.

Acrylics dry by evaporation, the larger the blob of paint, the slower the drying time. Working with thicker passages of colour can be particularly effective if you want to achieve similar ‘Rembrandtesque’ effects.

Amsterdam was beautiful, Late Rembrandt was fascinating and you’ll be pleased to hear even the chocolate waffles lived up to their promise.

One other unique discovery was a perfect sphere of cloud-like vanilla ice cream, wrapped in a warm dome of freshly whipped cream. It cost 1 euro and I treated myself to 2 in the space of half an hour, all in all a very pleasing trip.

best ice cream ever

Banketbakkerij Van Der Linde – Best Ice Cream / Cream cloud combo ever


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1. Singer Sargent & Friends – Review of John Singer Sargent exhibition and techniques.
2. Inside Sorolla’s Studio – Art studio tour of Spanish painter Sorolla

This Post Has 216 Comments

  1. Hi Will and thank you for sharing you visit. I have planned to go early next year but you have brought so much enthusiasm to my laptop that I really have to go to Amsterdam very soon.
    Best wishes

    1. Hi Geoff,
      You’re more than welcome, Amsterdam is a fantastic city we really had a great time there, hope you can fit it into your travel plans, the Rijksmuseum is a great museum to visit any time of year.

  2. great exhibition,I was there too in spring,because I live in Belgium,and not so far away from Amsterdam.Thanks for sharing all these good photos.

    1. Cheers Scheiris, pleased you enjoyed the show.

  3. I envy you! i would love to be able so stare for hours at the masters work! i lived in Europe as a child and wish as an adult to be able to go! wonderful story! thank you so much!

  4. Really enjoyed this article Will. I love to go to our Museum of Fine Arts and see how the paint was handled “up close” by the “masters” as well…very different than most of the images I see being painted now. I have been a professional photographer for many years, and prefer natural light (esp from a north light window) over studio lights anyday. When I started painting however, I found that I was looking for more shadow and highlight contrast than in photographs, not sure why that is. I love Rembrandt’s work, and the first (and most important) portrait lighting technique I learned was referred to as “Rembrandt lighting”, consisting of dark/light/dark/light pattern across the face left to right and an inverted triangle of light on the second cheek.

    1. Hi Tammy, really pleased you enjoyed the article, yes setting your portraits up with a Rembrandt Lighting is a great way to start, especially for establishing that sense of form in your paintings. It can be a good way to learn about the falling of light and keeping your lights and shadows separate in your paintings.

  5. What a fantastic review of your trip there and all you shared about the great Master, Rembrandt! Thank you. LOVE the photos you took as well.

  6. this was marvelous. Rembrandt is my favorite painter; I always check his paintings out first at the NY Met Museum. Thanks for showing these in Amsterdam.

    1. You’re welcome Naomi, pleased you enjoyed it.

  7. Hi, Will,
    Thank you for the wonderful information. I am working on painting Rembrandts “Return of the Prodigal Son”, 5’x4′, not quite the exact measurements that he did, however, it is quite the challenge. I definitely love his work and I enjoy learning from trying to mix his colors. I will read and study the info you sent. God bless and keep up the good work. I do so appreciate all your fine work.
    Sincerely, Lee

    1. Thanks Lee, hope it helps to give you an insight into the approaches with your painting, good luck with it.

  8. Thanks so much. I totally enjoyed inside Rembrandt’s studio

    1. Pleased you enjoyed it Debbie.

  9. What a treat to have you walk us through these paintings. I saw the exhibit in London and what you have pointed out in this piece has added to my enjoyment tenfold. Love your work and your online classes – please keep producing both! Thank you for the time and effort it took to compose this for all of your fans!

    1. Thanks Susan, pleased you caught it in London and the article added to the experience and thanks for your kind words on the courses.

  10. An absolutely fascinating read Will…many thanks!

    1. You’re welcome Kathy, pleased you enjoyed it.


    1. Thanks Muthu, yes those eyes do seem to follow you around the room!

      1. Hello Will, Thank you for allowing us to view your wonderfull piece on Rembrandt.
        I keep going back over the article to take more of it in .its Really really great
        All The Best, Shirley

        1. Thanks Shirley, so pleased you’ve been enjoying it.

  12. Thank you for sharing that

  13. Impressed with your comprehensive yet simple way of description.
    And, thanks for sharing.
    Yusuf Aidroos

    1. Thanks Yusuf, glad you found it enjoyable.

  14. Thank you for sharing! A wonderful “tour” and great pics of Amsterdam.

    1. Thanks Beth, pleased you enjoyed the photos.

  15. Has anyone ever told you that you quite resemble a young Rembrandt?

    1. Would that be the Lievens or the self-portrait version!

      1. The good looking one :-)

  16. Hello Will, thank you for your absolutely fascinating account of Rembrant’s later paintings and his technique. I’m going to print out your account and be sure to take it with me when we visit Amsterdam. At present we are going through a ‘van Gogh’ period in our household and are planning a vist to the Van Gogh museum in the near future. It will be an added bonus, while there, to also view some of the Rembrant’s paintings you describe, which are in the Rijksmuseum. Your overview is far far superior to that of any guided tour! Thanks again, Anne

    1. Oh good one Anne, that sounds like perfect timing, the Rijksmuseum is fab. Really hope you enjoy having a look at the paintings up close, enjoy the Van Gogh’s

  17. What a wonderful treat to see the studio and photos! I recently saw the Rembrandts, Vermeer and Hals paintings at the Frick Museum in NY. It was difficult to tear yourself away. Anyone can go to their web-site and take a peek at the virtual tour of the West Gallery.

    1. Thanks Sheryl, pleased you enjoyed the paintings first hand at the Frick.

  18. Dear Will,
    I am not getting much time to paint but I so enjoyed reading about your trip to Amsterdam. My daughter and I did a similar trip last year and loved Rembrandt’s House. Your article was a delight and so full of interesting information. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Elane, pleased you enjoyed reading about the trip.

  19. Hi Will,

    Thanks for such a thorough analysis. I have often puzzled over how Rembrandt combined impasto and colour glazes to create that almost sculptural texture that his later paintings have. Thanks to your explanation I think I am beginning to get it. There must have been stages in the painting when the parts of grisaille underneath, was completely obscured by the thick over-painting. I think it takes tremendous confidence to paint like that. As fine an artist as Lievens was you can see that he was following the rules, but Rembrandt was making his own.

    I am glad I am not the only one who likes to look at paintings with their nose inches from the canvas!


    1. Hi Terry, yes that’s right, some areas of the grisaille get completely covered and others are left slightly thinner so you have that base of the grey or muted skin tones showing through.

  20. Thank you so much for sharing your visit to Amsterdam and Rembrandt’s studio! So informative and enjoyable. It must have been an amazing experience!

    1. You’re welcome Carolie, really pleased you enjoyed the article.

  21. Hi Will,
    Thank you for sharing these wonderful paintings by Rembrandt and of your trip to Amsterdam. It must have been a wonderful experience seeing his paintings. I aapreciate your comments on his techniques, he was without doubt a master. Edith.

    PS, i keep looking over them.

    1. Hi Edith, yes it was great to see so many of his paintings in one space, pleased you enjoyed the article.

  22. Will: Thank you for sharing your trip with us. The insights into painting as the Master did is so so so…what can I say. I feel as though I were there with you…most expressive. Thank you. Now I think I’ll go have a Klondike Bar. Yum to you.

    1. Thanks very much, pleased you felt like you were there in the gallery.

  23. Thanks for sharing, very interesting observations you made about Rembrandt’s techniques! You really captured what it is like to paint like Rembrandt through your descriptions. Also, great pictures from your trip.

    1. Cheers Kate, glad you liked the photos and techniques.

  24. thank you very much thoroughly enjoyed

  25. Loved reading this and your photos helped me really get to grips with the more technical language. Many thanks :)

    1. Thanks Sharon, pleased you enjoyed it.

  26. Great article about Rembrandt and his painting styles. Never had realized how “out there ” he was, especially the layering and texture of the paint of his later works. Loved the photo of the two bicycles leaning against the front stoop – would you consider doing a video tutorial for a painting of this photo?

    1. Hi Roz, pleased you enjoyed the article and the photos, I’m working on a street/bicycle scene for a new drawing course at the moment, but haven’t got any plans for a painting tutorial, good to know you liked the image.

  27. Hello Will~
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful adventure and explaining the steps of the work processes. My son was able to view this with me and felt even more encouraged for his Art history course in the fall. ;-)

    Always a pleasure
    Best to you, RT

    1. Good one RT, always good to be ahead of the new art history class!

  28. A wonderful article. I’m in Amsterdam regularly and have visited the Rembrandt house a few times, but your observations make me want to experience it all anew. I particularly enjoyed, and learned a lot from, your detailed descriptions of his painting techniques.
    Many thanks.

    1. Thanks Dini, pleased you enjoyed looking up close at the painting techniques.

  29. Hi Will,

    Just wanted to say thank you to you for sharing this really interesting insight into Rembrandt and some of his working processes. As usual, you are very generous with your time and knowledge – much appreciated!

    1. You’re more than welcome Edith, pleased you found it interesting.

  30. HI WILL



    1. Pleased you enjoyed it Cheryl, hope you’re keeping well.

  31. Absolutely brilliant artist. Loved the “close-ups”. My only question is will there ever be a point in time when we will see a collection of Will Kemp self-portraits?

    1. Cheers Dave, glad you liked it, yes I’ll have to put a collection together!

  32. Hi Will,
    Thank you for this report. Interesting to read and learn new information about art!!We have been in Amsterdam last spring and visited Rembrand’s house too and of course the museum. House is amazing. It was as well interesting to learn how they made oil paints!

    1. You’re welcome Irina, pleased you enjoyed your trip to the Rembrandt House Museum.

  33. thank you for your very interesting tour!

  34. Thanks for this article! I fell in love with Rembrandt the first time I saw one of his paintings in person. It was awe-inspiring! The play of light within the shadows left me amazed and speechless! Pictures don’t do the real thing justice! It’s just not the same as seeing it in person! I’ve been to Amsterdam as well and it’s an absolutely beautiful city! I loved it as much as you have it seems!

    1. Thanks Lacy, yes its a lovely city, pleased you enjoyed the article.

  35. Will, thank you so much for sharing your insights into the mastery of Rembrandt. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour with you. I must share with you that when I saw the painting, “Old Woman Reading”, I found myself leaning forward in the same manner as the subject. This artist never fails in soliciting my participation, in any way, visually, emotionally, or physically!

    1. My pleasure Donna, that portrait did seem to have a special something, it kinda brought you into the painting in a very unshowy manner.

  36. Hi Will, Thanks so much for sharing your trip and insights on this wonderful artist.
    (the ice cream looks good too). best wishes, Jackie

  37. Thank you so much for your article, I don’t get the opportunity to visit galleries very often so it was really interesting to read the feedback of your visit and the work of a wonderful artist.

    1. Nice to hear you enjoyed the guided tour Val.

  38. Seriously Will, you are such a talented communicator on art you should get your own programme on Sky Art television. Always feel I have been on your trips with you.

    1. Very kind of you to say so Judy, pleased you enjoyed the article.

  39. Thank you so much for this. I really appreciate all your effort and generosity in sharing what you have learned.

    1. My pleasure Deborah, hope you’re keeping well.

  40. Fantastic article , I really enjoyed it.
    Love Rembrandt’s paintings.
    May thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Sandra, pleased you enjoyed it.

  41. always happy when one of your emails lands in my inbox!
    thanks for the article and brilliant photos – it is years since I was in Amsterdam and I sure would like to revisit after your account.
    I too look fwd to the collection of your self portraits, – l love to do portraits, but a selfie – NOOOO way!

    1. Good one Sandy, pleased you liked the photos.

  42. Outstanding Will
    Thank-you for your efforts. Amsterdam’s such a beautiful place as well.
    I hope to visit soon. Warm Regards. Gordon.

    1. Thanks very much Gordon, pleased you liked it.

  43. Thank you so much, Will, for sharing your wonderful adventure. I have enjoyed reading this summary very much for the valuable information you have passed on and the enthusiasm with which you have detailed the works of Rembrandt. I look forward to your next trip. Karen

    1. Hi Karen, glad you enjoyed it, hope it gave an insight into Rembrandt’s work.

  44. Thanks for taking the time to give such a lively account of your visit to this exhibition. It is so nice to have an informed but personal account of how you found it. Living at the bottom of the world I don’t have the chance to visit such exhibitions easily. Any chance of you making a Visit to an Exhibition a regular feature? This was a great learning opportunity and very enjoyable.

    1. Hi Philippa, really pleased you enjoyed the story of the visit, yes, I’ll be adding more exhibition visits in the future, there is one here from a Sargent show if you missed it.

  45. Thank you so much for showing me things I would never understand on my own. Amazing experience. Old Woman Reading is my favorite. I always wonder how I would have reacted to these great artists had I been alive in their time.

    1. So pleased you found in enlightening Peggy.

  46. Hi Will,
    Thanks for your Rembrandt reflections. I’ve just returned from a week in Utrecht and visited rembrandt’s house and his parents mill in Leiden, but missed out on the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam due to time. Visit Utrecht – a mini Amsterdam, just as many bikes, but less crowded!


    1. Oh how interesting Ronnie, how was the mill? thanks for the tip on Utrecht, sounds great.Will

  47. Hi Will,

    Thank you for sharing both your astonishing experience and your accurate view of art. I’ve learned a lot from your experiences and teaching techniques.

    Best Regards,

    1. Good one Marcia, glad you found the article helpful.

  48. Thank you for sharing your trip . The chances of me ever being able to visit these exhibits is next to none. So thank you again for expanding my world.

    1. Really pleased you enjoyed it Joan.

  49. Incredibly Lovely paintings with detail.. he is a Master when it comes to getting facial expressions.

    1. Yes, he does seem to have a knack of painting an expression of a persons character.

  50. I thank Will for this mail wherein he has been his best in describing the minutest details, appreciate great effort put in sharing this knowledge, Regards

    1. You’re more than welcome Pankaj, pleased you found it of interest.

  51. You are an amazing teacher. By posting close-ups of Rembrandt’s painting and giving a detailed explanation of his painting method you let me learn probably more than if I were there staring at the painting with a magnifying glass. Thank you!

    1. Ha, ha, yes getting up close it the way to go Judy, if you click on the llinks of Rembrandt self-portrait you can look around the painting really close on the Rijksmuseum website, there is a magnify glass on the bottom right.

  52. Thank you Will for such an interesting article. So many tips that I can’t wait to try out.

    1. Hope you enjoy experimenting with the over glazing Jennifer.

  53. Thank you Will for your excellent article about Rembrandt. I saw “The Night Watch” in Amsterdam in 1978 and wish I could go again.

    1. Thanks Margaret, yes it’s a fantastic scale of a painting, pleased you enjoyed the article.

  54. Dear Will,
    It would have been so fascinating tour you had to Rembrandt’s studio. I just have gone thru as a regular viewer, it is so amazing!. I will soon look into it as an art student to get ideas and lessons… thanks Will. Good posting.
    Kind regards

    1. Thanks Saleem, pleased you enjoyed it.

  55. Thanks Will…your commentary of the Rembrandt exhibit was wonderful. Wish I could have been there and have u as my tour guide…it must have been fascinating. Loved all the things you pointed out , ie,especially the play of light in the streets. Beautiful pictures….thanks so much…I learned a lot.
    Best to you, Linda


    1. Great to hear it Linda, pleased it gave an insight into the show and glad you liked the photos.

  56. Oh wow, I was there, too! But what a treat to see through your artist eyes! How much details I’ve missed, haha!

    1. Glad you got a chance to catch the exhibition Catherine.

  57. Thank you immensely Will for the insight into your trip. I am not a traveller myself so I will never get to see this exhibition in person so I truly appreciate you sharing your views and explanations of Rembrandt’s portraits.

    1. Really pleased you enjoyed it Elaine, glad you found the post helpful.

  58. Thank you for that. Your pair of eyes is always a great input for me.
    The ice-cream looks yummy : )

  59. Thank you for taking us with you on your visit to the Rembrandt museum..

    1. My pleasure Julie, so pleased you enjoyed the virtual tour!

  60. The most interesting, to me, and the most useful part of seeing his painting close up was the brush strokes he used. Thanks for sharing this adventure with us.

    1. Glad you found the article helpful Rosemary.

  61. I loved reading your article. thank you so much! You are a great teacher!

  62. Thanks a lot Will! I really enjoyed reading your comments on Rembrandt’s studio
    and his work in general. Years ago, I had the chance to visit a museum in Vienna
    where there were some ten huge paintings by Rembrandt. It was breathtaking.
    When I contemplate such masterpieces, I feel so humble for what I’m painting.
    But it’s for the pleasure of creating and to play with colours.
    Hope to hear from you agin sooooon!

    1. You’re welcome Maryse, that sounds like a great exhibition in Vienna, pleased you enjoyed the article.

  63. Hi there Will,

    Really great and informative post, thanks for the interesting read!! I am an Englishman in the 3D art industry that recently relocated to Amsterdam – a fascinating city in so many ways. I hope you got chance to visit ‘Rembrandtplein’ not only for the lovely bars but also for the bronze-cast representation of ‘The Night Watch’.

    I am a great fan of Rembrandt and his work for sure, but the first artist’s work that really caught my eye from a very young age was indeed that of Vincent van Gogh. If you haven’t seen it already, the van Gogh museum is a fantastic experience for next time you visit!

    Thanks for all the write ups and tutorials!


    1. Hi Sean, sounds like a great relocation!I missed Rembrandtplein, looks fab, thanks for the tip. I’ll add it on my list for the next trip.

  64. Hi Will, many Thanks for sharing the experience, photos and article! Amsterdam is one place I have yet to visit and I love Rembrandt paintings even more after I went to the National Gallery on London two years ago. Thanks for sharing this , very educating.
    Best Regards, Ali

    1. Pleased you enjoyed it Ali, there are some great Rembrandt’s at the National.

  65. Thank you so much for this inspiring article. I am a REAL beginner and slowly working through 2 of your beginners courses. You are a fantastic teacher and I love receiving your extra information and holiday features. Thank you again.

    1. Thanks Susan, hope you’re enjoying the courses and getting some good results in your work.

  66. Thanks Will for your effort to keep artists and other people informed.
    During my years at college , I learned about Rembrandt and hope that one day I will also have a chance this beautiful studio.

    1. My pleasure Peter, hope you get the chance to visit.

  67. Thanks will for a very informative article. I have just seen two magical rembrandts at a recent Sainsbury Centre exhibition. Worth the admission alone.

  68. Hi Will, thanks so much for sharing your trip to Amsterdam and explaining the painting techniques, very insightful. Reminds me it’s been a while since we were there, they certainly weren’t selling “cloud” icecreams then they look lovely.
    Best wishes,

    1. Thanks Sheila, glad you found the post insightful to his techniques, and cloud ice-cream always helps with artistic inspiration!

  69. I’d visited Rijksmuseum two years ago but I had no enough time to visit the Rembrandt’s House. Thanks a lot for your sharing :)

  70. Wonderful insight Will and very helpful and inspiring! Have you been to the Sargent show at the Met? It is Sargent painting his friends and artists. If you go, I would love the same detailed observation as above. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  71. Thank you. Interesting and helpful.

  72. This is really nice!! Thank you for taking the time and sharing it with all of it with us! Love all the details you shared from your visit. Thank you again.

    1. Thanks Emma, so pleased you enjoyed it.

  73. Hi Will,

    I enjoyed your take on Inside Rembrandt. It is always wonderful to get an artist’s
    view on something so wonderful. We had a Rembrandt exhibit that came to our
    art museum several years ago and it was exciting to get up close and personal with
    his paintings. Thank you so much for sharing.
    p.s. I love vanilla ice cream too.

    1. Hey Anne, Vanilla ice-cream is too often overlooked! glad you liked the article.

  74. Thank you so much for this article, going to Amsterdam over Christmas, hope to go and see this museum, and how much more interesting it will be having read your observations.
    Regards Sue.

    1. Good one Sue, hope you have a great time.

  75. Hi Will. Indeed a fantastic exhibition. Being Dutch I of course also visited it, in Amsterdam in February. I was lucky to be able to go and see it on a special evening and it was no so crowded then. So my friend, also an amateur painter, and I could see all the paintings at a very close distance. Very good, we learned a lot again, but the most important: we enjoyed it.
    Thanks for your comments and information.

    1. Hi Leonie, must have been great to see all the works in a private view evening, pleased you enjoyed the show.

  76. Hi Will,

    You were lucky to have missed the Late Rembrandt in London because the Rijksmuseum could add some portraits from German museums that were not available for London, as well as the portrait of Jan Six, still owned by the Dutch Six family. Because of that I went to both (with a Dutch museum card you only had to pay a small extra fee)

    Funny how visitors see Amsterdam in a different light from people who live there.
    I guess we don’t see the beauty anymore.
    Van der Linde indeed sells the best soft icecream in the city. I bet there was a queue, there usually is.

    Being in Amsterdam and not visiting the Van Gogh museum?
    Or is that another story?

    Thanks anyway for the article.


    1. Well who would have thought it, good to know that Hermi, pleased I managed to see them and I wasn’t even aware!

  77. Dear Will:

    I enjoyed this so very much. He has always been able to mystify me. And I want an ice cream cone like that. Bread and ice cream are my two major food groups.
    Thank you for sharing with us.
    With great appreciation,

    1. Ha ha, yes I think I would have to concur with those food group choices, glad you liked it Constance.

  78. As always, a very clear and deep insight on painting.
    I really loved your “quest journal”.
    Thanks a lot!

    Ps: I also envy you…two ice creams in a row? really

    1. Thanks Ricardo, pleased you enjoyed it.

  79. Thank you so much Will for your wonderful description of your visit to Inside Rembrandt’s Studio, you really got my attention on this unique experience and it’s already the number three place to visit in my bucket list very soon.
    I also thank you for sharing your valuable information about your art knowledge, something that I ever had in my number of art classes that I’ve taken through the years.

    1. Great to hear it Betty, so pleased you enjoyed the tour of the studio.

  80. Dear Will

    I just love the look on your face as you stand where Rembrandt may have stood. Many years ago now I stood perhaps in that same spot and felt very emotional. Your comments on the movement and handling of the paint are very interesting. When you paint a portrait do you prefer to have the sitter looking straight at you or is that problematical? Where are you traveling next you may like to consider Australia although with your complexion you will need plenty of blockout even in winter.

    1. Hi Lynette, pleased you enjoyed the photos, the positioning of the sitter varies on the mood and feel of the portrait, a straight on view is often more confrontational, but the slightest drop in line of vision can suddenly change the feeling of the piece, such as in Rembrandt’s ‘Old Women Reading’ above.

  81. Thanks so much for sharing – you are a great story-teller as well as artist, photographer and teacher

    1. Very kind of you to say so Gloria, pleased you enjoyed it.

  82. wow..his studio is awesome.. I love his paintings

  83. So very interesting, and such beautiful works. It is not just his total genius that comes through but his humanity.
    Even though I live in a stunningly beautiful part of Australia, I feel envious of the ease with which you can pop over to places like Amsterdam.Many thanks.

  84. I went to see this exhibition at the National Gallery and was fascinated with the simplicity of the brushstrokes close up and the amazing effect this created. My favourite was indeed the Jewish bride. This and your instruction on portrait painting in your ‘Oils’ section has helped me improve my portrait painting considerably. I am particularly interested in the glazing techniques but find that I ‘overdo’ the thing and end up with a bit of a mess. Practice makes perfect however and I am currently attempting a David Beckham portrait. Makes the endless hours getting the detail right also quite enjoyable! so glad I have come across your site.

    1. Hi Madhu, pleased you caught the exhibition in London and glad you’ve been finding the oil tutorials helpful in your portraits.

  85. Hi Will
    Thank you SO much for this amazing article, which has been such an inspiration and ‘wake up call’ to the artist within me! I have always been fascinated by Rembrandt and his work. Although I live in South Africa, I made a point of visiting the Rijksmuseum and Rembrandt’s studio! while in Amsterdam for two days during 2012. I am sure you will know the intense emotion one experiences when standing within arm’s reach of one of these revered paintings… (I silently wept when I saw Turner’s last works in the Tate gallery..!) I was so thrilled to see Rembrandt’s technique of impasto, overpainted with glazing, up close…something I have ‘discovered’ on my own in my paintings – and I thought I was the inventor of.. :) !
    Keep up the good work, and thanks a million!

    1. Hi Renee, so pleased you enjoyed revisiting the studio and techniques, glad you enjoyed your visit to Amsterdam.

  86. Thank you so much for this, Will. I was in Amsterdam last year and found the imagery everywhere to be so vivid that it is forever etched in my mind. I loved this article and appreciate everything you bring to us. Your generosity is wonderful.

    1. My pleasure Bonnie, really pleased you enjoyed reading the post.

  87. Will, how kind of you to share your trip. Your presentation was both educational and enjoyable! Austine

    1. Thanks Austine, so pleased you enjoyed reading it.

  88. Thank you for all your generous sharing, and the work that it involves. This tour is such a gift. Ever so grateful.

    Thank you, Joni Nance

    1. You’re welcome John, pleased you found it of interest.

  89. Thank you so much for sharing this article. I have never studied Rembrandt’s painting style in depth before because I have only seen one of his original paintings, and it was so small it was little more than a glob of varnish on the surface. I couldn’t see any of his technique. It was a small self portrait in the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. I am presently living in the American Southwest and have little to no opportunity to see one here. Am planning to move back to civilization in the near future.

    You have peaked my interest in the techniques he used, so I fully intent to delve into his work. Thank you again for sharing this information.

    Respectfully, Linda

    1. So pleased it’s helped to give you a new perspective on Rembrandt’s work Linda.

  90. Hello Will. I am so pleased that you shared your trip info. Rembrandt is one of my favorites artists and I was very happy to read this article. It was both pleasant and educational. Thank you very much Will.

    1. Hi Elena, so pleased you enjoyed reading the article.

  91. Good Morning Will!
    It has been a couple days since I had the privilege of seeing Rembrandt’s collection via your professional and admiring eyes. I have been unable to thank you until now because I kept returning to admire and study your comments on his techniques. I have been overwhelmed by emotion each time; the brilliance of his skill is undefinable. I have always loved Rembrandt and this was a very special treat! I have a particular love and inclination for classical painting…sometimes I can’t breathe when I study these works. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing tour with us (that most definitely includes the beautiful architecture and that awesome ice cream!).
    Yours gratefully…

    1. Hi Robyn, thanks so much for your kind words and so glad that you’ve enjoyed the article and learning more about Rembrandt’s life and techniques. Thanks again.

  92. Hi Will we have friends in Amsterdam who have been trying to intice us there for some time. She is a professional artist who can trace the family history back to Rembrandt and with whom I am lucky enough to have lessons when they visit us in Portugal. After reading your very interesting article and seeing the beautiful photos I am virtually on the plane! I love Rembrandt’s style and like you will have my nose an inch from the canvas. Thank you for the inspiration.

    1. Hi Turea, oh wow, what a lineage! pleased it’s helped to pique your interest, have a great time!

  93. Hi Will,
    Thanks for sharing some of your trip insights – very inspiring and I enjoy your writing style – you have a lovely way with words.

    1. Thanks very much Beverly, glad you enjoyed it.

  94. Hello Will ,
    Thank you for sharing your trip to Amsterdam and Rembrandt’s studio with us .
    It it obvious what a wonderful time you had from your detailed descriptions of his paintings and house/ studio –not to mention the ice cream !
    The close-ups of his brush work are fascinating and offer a real insight into his technique .
    I look forward to your next adventure in the World Of Art .

    Best wishes ,
    Patrick .

    1. You’re more than welcome Patrick, really pleased you enjoyed seeing the close-ups of the work.

  95. Thank you so much for sharing this. I especially love the close up photos and your descriptions. Wonderful!

    1. Thanks Margaret, really pleased you enjoyed it.

  96. Will,

    You are so generous to put together this tutorial on Rembrandt. The quality of your photos and comments about technique are enormously helpful, and I thank you very much indeed. A question I always ask good artists is “please tell me what you see.” I want to understand how they are analyzing the work. You’ve done that beautifully in this posting. All good wishes, Betty

    1. Hi Betty, my pleasure, really pleased you enjoyed the close up photos of Rembrandt’s technique and have enjoyed learning more about the thought process when looking at a painting.

  97. whether it’s a beam of white light passing through a prism,
    or a double rainbow after a storm,
    the “artiste” in me is most moved, even challenged
    by chiaroscuro, the mystery of light and dark.

    and, YUM, that ice cream demands a visit to amsterdam.

    1. Cheers Terri, yes chiaroscuro does always have that certain charm, as does it seem ice-cream shops!

  98. Hi Will, Just returned from holiday and read your very interesting and informative piece on Rembrandt. I really enjoyed it. I’m determined to sign up for the Acrylic Portrait course
    as soon as I’ve put the garden to bed for the winter!
    Thanks again.
    Peter B.

    1. You’re welcome Peter, really pleased you enjoyed the article, good luck with the garden.

  99. Will, thank you for sharing the life and works of other artists. It not only broadened my knowledge in art, it also affected my philosophy and perspective in art and life. “I’ve realized that the artist’s personal life can not be separated in his artworks”. Thank You.

    1. So great to hear it Emem, and you’re so right, our own experiences and influences can’t help but get entwined with the works and art pieces that we create, really glad you enjoyed the article.


  100. Hello.thank you so much.

    1. You’re welcome Taraneh, pleased you enjoyed it.

  101. David sent me the link to your travelogue a while ago, and I finally found time to sit and enjoy it. You are a really eloquent travel companion. I enjoyed learning more about Rembrandt and found the information about his handling of paint fascinating. Have you thought about writing a book? You have a remarkable gift for making art come alive! Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hey Martha, nice to hear from you (say hi to David and the kids) thanks for your kind comments on the writing style, really pleased you enjoyed it and I’ll have to get working on a first draft!

  102. Hi will . Just wondering if you have ever used the colour Terra verte . ? After reading a very old book by an author called Harold speed , he recommends its use along with raw umber for skin tones . After taking your last advice given , I now use yellow ochre . Burnt sienna . Raw umber and cad red for an extra dash of colour when needed . Is Terra Verte a worthwhile addition in your opinion .? Many thanks .

    1. Hi Dan, yes, Terra verte can be a nice base against pinky skin tones, it can also be used to dull down reds as it’s quite a subtle hue with a low tinting strength. Personally if I’m using a green I’d tend to use the green umber from Old Holland as it has a bit more body than Terre verte but still gives a lovely subtle tone. Pleased you’re enjoying Harold’s speeds books.

      1. Thank you will for your help .

  103. Will,
    Thank you for all your notes on this! I visited Rembrandt’s house and the Rjiks on a trip through Amsterdam in late June. (First time in Europe.) It was like heaven. I was furiously taking notes on studio set up and methods and of course the couple of hours we had at the house didn’t do it justice. I was really fascinated by how the bustling trade of Amsterdam during Rembrandt’s time allowed him to pick up new ideas and use them in his work. I felt like I could go back over and over and learn something every time. So thank you for your excellent review of your experience, with better pictures than mine!!
    Minnesota, US

    1. You’re welcome Laurel, pleased you enjoyed your time in Amsterdam.

  104. I have loved Rembrandt for many years, his paintings are so very much alive for me. Its fascinating to see his work through the eyes of an artist. I loved your piece. Thanks’. Regards John

    1. Really pleased you enjoyed the Rembrandt article John,

  105. Dear Will

    Thank you so much for sharing your Amsterdam adventure. I’m an amateur artist living in the Netherlands for 16 years now (originally from SA) and when I visit Amsterdam I enjoy observing the architecture and the colours. You can never stop learning to see. I once visited the Rijks Museum and was lucky enough to see the collection of van Goghs sunflowers and it was magical.

    Regards Colleen

    1. Pleased you enjoyed it Colleen, yes, there are some fantastic paintings to see in Amsterdam and I just love the 9 streets (and waffles!)

  106. Hi Will,

    Thank you for your writings.

    You said that this exhibition was of Rembrandt’s late works and I was expectant that it would include his ‘The Conspiration of the Bataves (1661-62)’ which was noticeably absent. I personally consider that it was his greatest work but it seems to still be treated with contempt.

    Kind regards.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the article Ernest.

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