I originally wrote this post on January 31, 2009
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born on 15th July, 1606. I grew up knowing about Rembrandt because my mother was an artist. She adored Rembrandt’s use of light and shadow.
It wasn’t until I started doing research for A Scotsman in Love, however, that I realized exactly what kind of challenges Rembrandt, and other painters of his time, faced.
There were no standards for color. One man’s red could be another man’s crimson. Pigments were expensive, hard to create, and had to be mixed daily. They consisted of unstable compounds and natural elements such as eggs, decomposing manure, mercury, sulfur, roots, insects, leaves, charcoal, chalk, ground glass, and even arsenic. Being an artist could actually be hazardous to your health.
The magic of Rembrandt is that he could create such beauty at all, let alone under such circumstances. Yet despite not knowing if his creation would crumble in a year or if the very expensive canvas or wood would be eaten away by the acidic nature of his pigments, Rembrandt and other artists persevered, leaving behind a legacy that’s not only beautiful but truly inspirational.
As a writer I don’t have to make the paper or create the pen. All I have to do is use them.