REMBRANDT HOUSE MUSEUM, AMSTERDAM – learning from the master

Crush a few coloured rocks, add oil and alcohol, smear onto canvas and there you have it - a Rembrandt!

In the studio where Rembrandt created The Night Watch, I started at the beginning, learning how to make paint.

Rembrandt's kitchen, where he cooked up his ideas. Sorry.

The house in which the master lived from 1639 to 1658 is open to the public. We can poke our noses into the rooms where the great man worked, ate, slept, interviewed his guests and made his poor financial decisions.

Nice fireplace. No, that's not a Rembrandt above it.


When it was built in the early 17th century, the house would have been considered luxurious, and the renovation which added a storey with pointed gables was cutting edge 1629 architecture.

It’s on the corner of the busy Jodenbreestraat, across the road from the Albert Hein supermarket, a couple of doors down from the Simon Levelt coffee shop (NOTE: this is not one of Amsterdam’s notorious ‘coffeeshops’, meaning ‘drugstores’ – Simon really sells coffee.)

The great master’s greatest masterpieces are close by in Amsterdam’s fabulous Rijksmuseum, but the more modest Rembrandthuis has a fascinating collection of his smaller works, particularly his etchings.

While security guards in the Rijksmuseum keep potential vandals at a safe distance from Rembrandt’s works, visitors to his house are encouraged to get up close to examine his etchings with the thoughtfully provided magnifying glasses.

Eric shows us how.

There are daily demonstrations of paint mixing and etching techniques.

Californian artist Eric shows us how Rembrandt would have pulverised yellow ochre or blue lapis lazuli with a pestle and mortar, added linseed oil and alcohol, then ground the paste on a slab of marble.

He does it very well in excellent English and Dutch and even makes a good fist of translating ‘linseed oil’ into Portuguese.

Making paint is hard work. Since oil paint dries and sets overnight, a fresh batch needs to be mixed each day – quite a lot of it if you have The Night Watch on the go. That’s what the great man had apprentices for, of course.

Rembrandt notoriously lived beyond his means, so when his creditors called him in for a chat, most of his own collection of art and other objects that he found inspiring had to be sold to cover his debts.

However, since the inventory from the sale survived, the house’s restorers were able to accurately refurnish rooms, including the master’s studio, with objects Rembrandt would have recognised.

Rembrandt spent a fortune on classical busts.

While thousands queued to see Rembrandt’s work in the great Rijksmuseum, even on a public holiday we were able to walk straight through to browse the Rembrandthuis with only a handful of other visitors.

NOTES: The Rembrandthuis is open every day except New Year’s Day. Entry costs 10 euros. (Free with a Museum Card or Amsterdam Card.)

For details, see www.rembrandthuis.nl

Highly recommended.

6 Comments

Filed under Art, Holland

6 responses to “REMBRANDT HOUSE MUSEUM, AMSTERDAM – learning from the master

  1. And tea! Simon sells tea, too. Great tea’s like a First Flush Darjeeling so invigorating, you will gladly pass those notorious coffee shops over on your way to the Must Go Rembrandthuis. :-)
    -Mina

  2. How fascinating! I would love to go there.

  3. Wish I was there to dabble into the world of light and darks. Rembrandt is a favourite so I was truly captivated whilst reading your post. So where is your show and tell? Therese

    • Well now I know how to make the paint, Therese, can my first Night Watch be far away?

      I have an annual museum card (excellent value at 40 euros, btw), so I can smugly slip past the queues of tourists and have a quick look at the Rijksmuseum any time.

  4. Pingback: REMBRANDT IN LEIDEN – nice place to be a kid | Richard Tulloch's LIFE ON THE ROAD

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