How Rembrandt Reveals Your Beautiful, Imperfect Self: Life Lessons from the Masterby Roger Housden, Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn
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
- Crown Publishing Group
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- 5.81(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.98(d)
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: Lesson One—Open your eyes
Look in the Mirror
He wore a simple cloth cap, a brown one, pulled back to the edge of a receding hairline, with loose gray curls spilling out from both sides. His brow was wrinkled, his cheeks were flaccid; he looked in poor health. Or perhaps he was just tired. His large bulbous nose stood out like a sentinel. The face, which was turned toward me, glowed with a light that seemed to come from within. His mustache, and the little tuft of hair below his lower lip, were the same brownish-gray as his hair. The rest of his body, in three-quarter-length pose, faced to the right and merged into the dark, except for his clasped hands. The whole composition was a mass of thick shadow from which the face emerged like the sun.
He was in the National Gallery in London. So was I. It had been raining, and with an hour or more to kill, the Gallery seemed a good option. I had momentarily forgotten how walking through any national gallery is liable to lead to overload. One minute you are in the Renaissance, with all the gold angels bent over Mary; the next you can be drifting between men in powdered wigs, all of them so prim and tight, and women in flouncy ballroom attire. Or if you take a left turn without thinking—after all, the place is a maze, it’s so easy to get lost—you might find yourself flitting past David, not the one who defeated Goliath, though he is likely to be up there on the wall as well, but Jacques-Louis David, the Frenchman who did all those historical wide-screen and heavy-gilt-frame things with Napoleon as the star. No wonder museum gift shops do so well. It’s far easier to shop than to stagger through corridors. The museum maze can be confusing. I was beginning to feel confused, that day in the National Gallery.
But then as I walked through yet another open archway, something happened: a pair of eyes grabbed me from the other side of the room and wouldn’t let go. The eyes of an old man whose rumpled face glowed against a background of darkness. My tiredness and boredom began falling away. I walked slowly across the room and sat down on the bench before him.
He gazed down at me from under hooded lids. At first glance he seemed to be sad, almost melancholy; but then that first impression gave way to something else. I began to feel that his eyes conveyed a profound, even rigorous kindness. Yes, rigor and kindness, all in the same gaze. A kindness toward himself, for his condition, physical and psychological; but also, it seemed, for me—for anyone who cared to look. I don’t think I have felt such unconditional regard from another person, painted or otherwise.
Meet the Author
Roger Housden emigrated from England to the United States in 1998 and now lives in New York City. He is the author of numerous books on cultural and spiritual themes, including the bestselling Ten Poems series. You can email Roger Housden at email@example.com
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