Leiden as the birthplace of Dutch painting
In the 17th century, several painters worked in Leiden who were of crucial importance for Dutch painting in this time. During their years in Leiden, the young Rembrandt and Jan Lievens laid the foundation for an oeuvre of worldwide significance. In the same years, Jan van Goyen and the marine painter Jan Porcellis developed as pioneers of Dutch landscape painting. Leiden was also known for painters such as Jan Davidsz. de Heem and David Bailly, who devoted themselves to vanitas still lifes in which the idea of transience was central.
The world-famous artist Rembrandt was born in Leiden on 25 July 1606. He received his training (1620-1623) with the painter from Leiden Jacob Isaacz. van Swanenburg. Then he started his own studio at the Kort Galgewater, where also students worked. During the 1630s he moved to Amsterdam, where he settled permanently in 1634.
Several early well-known works by Rembrandt, including Specacles Seller from c. 1624, Musicians in company from 1626 and the History Piece with Self-portrait of the Painter from the same year, can be seen in Museum De Lakenhal. The Spectacles Seller is one of a series of the five senses that Rembrandt painted around the age of 17. Rembrandt clearly experimented with technique. Yet the attention to light-dark (chiaroscuro) and the loose technique with which he would later become famous are already visible. In the Historiestuk Rembrandt portrays himself; he can be recognised by his curly hair. The Historiestuk was recently restored in the studio of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and shines again as before.
Leidse fine painters
Gerrit Dou was Rembrandt's most important pupil. In contrast to his master, who used an increasingly loose brushstroke, Dou developed into a fine painter. This meant that he strove to reproduce reality as faithfully as possible. This is clearly visible in The Astronomer. The reflection of the candlelight, the sparkle of the water in the bottle, the book's dog-ears - everything is just real. The brushstrokes are invisible.
Dou mainly paints refined cabinet pieces; small paintings with a historical or biblical subject, or with a genre representation (representation from everyday life). Frans van Mieris the Elder, Pieter van Slingelandt, and Godfrey Schalcken also belong to this group of artists. In their own time, these painters were already internationally renowned.
Late 17th century
Paintings in Leiden in the late 17th century are characterised by an expressive realism on the one hand, depicting reality, and on the other hand by classicist sophistication, referring to classical, especially Roman, examples. The painter Jan Steen and sculptor Pieter Xavery working in Leiden are the most important representatives of the former. Their popular, humorous scenes were popular with wealthy citizens. Jan Steen, like Rembrandt, had the habit of including self-portraits in his paintings. This can be seen in Bible-reading Couple and The Robbed Fiddler. Xavery made work for the Leiden facades of, for example, the Gravensteen and the house 'In den Vergulden Turk' in the Breestraat. He also made large and small terracotta figurines for Leiden interiors and gardens.