Rationale for why the Night Watch is Rembrandt’s Masterpiece

Rembrandt did not confine himself to a single technique. Some elements are worked out in minute detail, while in other places he seems to have applied the paint very thickly. Technically it is a masterly piece of work. The captain’s hand, for instance, seems to be coming out of the painting towards the viewer. Contemporaries were very well aware of the quality of this painting. Rembrandt’s former pupil, the art theoretician Samuel van Hoogstraten, wrote about it in terms of great admiration. He pointed out that the composition and unity were more important to Rembrandt than the individual portraits. He described the work as strikingly ‘picturesque in conception’ and ‘elegantly’ and ‘powerfully’ done. This is what sets this painting apart from the other militia pieces that were made at the same time.

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