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Rembrandt's Eyes
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Rembrandt's Eyes

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  883 ratings  ·  28 reviews
The great 17th-century Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn left us so many arresting self-portraits, painted at every stage in his eventful life, that his distinctive face and bearing are a familiar part of the 20th-century cultural landscape, a recognizable presence in galleries across Europe and North America. Nonetheless, the artist himself remains an enigma. Rembrandt was...more
Hardcover, 768 pages
Published November 16th 1999 by Knopf (first published January 1st 1999)
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M. D.  Hudson

I hate Simon Schama’s prose. Hate it. He is a shameless, heedless over-writer of the self-regarding not-as-funny-as-he-thinks kind. If two adjectives will work, six will work even better. Here is Amsterdam as rendered by Schama:

By the time Pieter Segerszoon had gone to his Maker in 1603, there were twice the number of folk in the city and all manner of voices could be head on the Dam: eastern accents, thick and yawning, from Gelderland and Overijssel; German gutturals; the soft glottals of Wallo...more
Aug 30, 2010 Monique rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: art
During one of my painting classes, I was assigned to do a master copy of one of Rembrandt's many self portraits. He was a 17th century artist who painted more self portraits than any other painter of his time. of course I needed to know as much about the man as well as the artist from whom I was to attempt to copy. I learned a lot about his life as well as the history of his influences and techniques. His life was marred by sorrow, as so many influential figures in history were. It didn't seem t...more
I read this in conjunction with a Rembrandt exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. Simon Schama is able to provide the context of the times that Rembrandt lived and as a result this life comes alive with the life and art of this artistic genius. The details about the development of Rembrandt as and artist and businessman are illuminating, but there is also the story of the rising middle class, the customers, who filled the walls of their homes with paintings from Rembrandt and his contemporari...more
This is a beautiful meticulously written biography on the works and life of Rembrandt. Every chapter branches off into new stories about the historic happenings and beliefs of the 17th century time which give you a very solid understanding of the world and human life at that time. A little long-winded but highly informative. Simon Schama teaches you how to properly look at Rembrandt's paintings.
If you can wade through this incredibly detailed and meaty book, you will acquire an indigestion of insight, and will no doubt be the smartest kid at the party of all things Rembrandt.
Excellent biography of Rembrandt and his times with great reproductions.

Well written and entertaining as well as informative.
Quite the comprehensive work on Rembrandt, as you would expect from Schama. To tell the story of Rembrandt and his paintings, you get their story but intermingled with discources on painterly techniques. More than this though, you get the context with enough on Rubens to provide a separate biography of him. Schama understands, as he always has, that sometimes you need to step back to view the whole picture. Something I suspect Rubens and Rembrandt would agree on. Thus you even learn about Reuben...more
I came to this book (and Simon Schama) via the "Acknowledgements" section of Zadie Smith's "On Beauty". Initially put away in favor of other things, a planned trip to Holland compelled me to break it out for another try.

It's undoubtedly a great book, but a bit of a daunting challenge due to not only the length, but the larger-than-average gravitational burden. The thick, glossy pages of paintings are beautiful and they complement Schama's text well, but damn if this book isn't impossible to tran...more
As a longtime fan of author/historian/art critic Simon Schama from his History of Britain and Power of Art series respectively, I had no doubt that Schama would score big with Rembrandt's Eyes. The author captures perfectly the "up-and-coming on the economic world stage, hustle-bustle" feel of early seventeenth century Amsterdam and one of its greatest exports: Rembrandt van Rijn.

If you are familiar with Schama's narrative style, you'll know he is nothing at all like the typical stuffy, tweed c...more
Warren Hastings
It's a struggle sometimes when you read a review filled with enthusiasm and excited encouragement to read the book being described. The five stars I've given is a clue that this is one of those danger moments for the more sensitive reader.

Mr.Schama is a favourite human, Rembrandt is a miraculous artist and this book is a physics-busting combination of perfect plus perfect equalling more than perfect. It's a beautiful, inspiring and fascinating masterpiece that transports you into Rembrandt's wo...more
If you have not yet discovered Simon Schama, then you are in for a real treat. This book reads as smooth as historical fiction, but has all the footnotes to prove it is so much more than that. Schama is a historian that understands the soul of Rembrandt. If an advid art enthusiast, or new to the subject, you will love this book. Schama examines Rembrandt through the Ruben's perspective and explains how important Rubens was for not only Rembrandt, but every other artist of that time period. There...more
A book superbly written by a specialist, Simon Schama, in both history and art. A book for those who love the 17th century in European history and artistic development. Easy to read, as the author has a most fluent style in narration, full of information on mainly Rubens and Rembrandt, but also on the many others who made that era a garden of blooming Flemish and Dutch art among the many wars, plagues and religious controversies. It is NOT a summer vacation book! It is a book for those intereste...more
This is a detailed biography of Rembrandt, by one of the top European cultural historians around. The story is rich and I have felt under read on 17th century Holland. What made this book special for me was its high production value and its collection of illustrations of much of Rembrandt's most notable paintings. In my limited experience, art books have been "coffee table" volumes that are most valuable to page through rather than read. This is an exception that combines a high quality biograph...more
Chris Gager
I'll admit to skimming through some of the historical scene-setting details but I loved reading about the greatest painter ever. Seeing a reproduction of "The Oathswearing of Claudius Civilis" for the first time was a real treat too. I he were alive today Rembrandt Harmentzsoon van Rijn might be our greatest graphic artist. I was in DC recently and went to the National Gallery(along with thousands of other people-it was Memorial weekend Saturday). Just blown away by the portraits in the Rembrand...more
Another great book by Mr. Schama; a wonderfully written bio of Rembrandt in what I take to be Mr. Schama's favorite era - Holland in the seventeenth century - complete with no-expense-spared, full-color art reproductions. I read the hardback. If there's a soft cover out, you might want to try that. The hardback is the size of a small coffee table; reading it in bed sprained both my wrists and almost crushed my chest.
This book is not only about Rembrandt, but others artists (Ruebens is the main subject of the first 200 pages), economy, religion, politics, even gossip...all in the 1600's...the Gold Age of the Netherlands. The book is dense with information, lots of trivia. I found it very interesting.
I did not have the time to read this overly dense, overly obfuscatory text. I needed a more straightforward read that did not require me to sit down with a 20 lbs book that I couldn't even hold up while I read in bed.
Overall very good, but I could have done without some of the excessively long anecdotes only tangentially related to Rembrandt and his works. Also, I was pleasently surprised by and enjoyed the Rubens biography.
I did not read this cover to cover, but I own this book so I am sure I will go back again in the future, I love the art of Rembrandt's art and especially his focus an medicine and anatomy.
Sean O'Brien
Monumental. A vivid history of sixteenth century Netherlands gives the context by which the artist subverted contemporary forms.
Karen Tannenbaum
The best book of Rembrandt I have read. Not an easy read at all but profound and his love/hate relationship with Peter Paul Reubens.
this is taking much longer than I anticipated. Simon's wacky sense of humor doesn't come through in the text.
Juan Ignacio
Best Rembrandt "art/history" boom, I have ever raed. Amazing and delicious.
I'll follow Simon Schama anywhere his writing takes me.
Jan 21, 2010 A. marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Daisy marked it as to-read
Oct 19, 2014
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Imprinted Lives: ...: Rembrandt, Rubens, 17th-c Netherlands painters 1 8 Apr 22, 2013 09:45AM  
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Simon Schama was born in 1945. The son of a textile merchant with Lithuanian and Turkish grandparents, he spent his early years in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. When his parents moved to London he won a scholarship to Haberdashers’ Aske’s School where his two great loves were English and History. Forced to choose between the two he opted to read history at Christ’s College, Cambridge. Here he was taught...more
More about Simon Schama...
The Power of Art Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World? 3500 BC-AD 1603 (A History of Britain, #1) The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age Landscape And Memory

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