The rise and fall of Holland's great painter Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 - 1669) is detailed.


Simon Schama


Simon Schama


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Episode cast overview:
Simon Schama ... Himself - Presenter


Host Simon Schama uses wit and insight to review the life and career of the great Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn. Using his paintings as reference, Schama details his early brilliance, through his high years as Amsterdam's go-to guy for realistic portraits, to his bankruptcy and decline as his refused to compromise his artistic vision to please his patrons. Written by Ron Kerrigan <>

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Official Sites:

PBS [United States]

Release Date:

3 November 2006 (UK) See more »

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User Reviews

Perhaps Schama is not the Ideal Guide to Art History
24 October 2014 | by l_rawjalaurenceSee all my reviews

Watching the historian Simon Schama present an art history program is an interesting experience. He is obviously well versed in his subject, and has an enthusiastic need to communicate to his viewers; but at the same time the content pf his documentaries is remarkably shallow, consisting primarily of a series of hyperboles and patronizing direct addresses to the viewer ("look, everyone").

His basic argument is that Rembrandt was a flawed genius - in artistic terms, he pushed the boundaries of artistic convention both in the Netherlands and elsewhere, fighting against the prevailing fashion for 'respectable' art. On the other hand, he was also a spendthrift, a wastrel, and had a rather colorful personal life - to such an extent that he was reduced to poverty by his life's end. He could still enjoy the patronage of some rich nobles, but in the end he pressed the artistic self-destruct button and suffered as a result. The story is a fascinating one, but could have been better told without the kind of clichés contained in Schama's script (tortured genius, etc.)

Perhaps the program's principal flaw is to spend insufficient attention on Rembrandt's work, and to focus instead on the star presenter in a variety of locations, walking towards or away from the camera, emphasizing the power of his personality. The use of an academic as presenter is a tried and tested formula for television documentary, but viewers do expect some kind of substance in the narration. Sadly this is what Schama omits to provide. Perhaps he should keep to his specialist subject area rather than venturing into intellectual pastures new.

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