Why Rembrandt would have been a great cinematographer

Its the year 1633, the young Rembrandt, one of the early Master of light and shadow just finished his latest painting called ‘The Storm on the Sea of Galilee’. While this might not become his most famous painting it teaches a great lesson on how to direct the viewers eye, how to add depth, how to get a clear read on everything that is of relevance and most importantly tells the story.

Rembrandt_Christ_in_the_Storm_on_the_Lake_of_Galileedirecting the eyes:

The first thing the eye gets drawn to are the huge bright waves hitting the boat. There is no way to miss this, not only because the waves are a lot brighter than anything else in the painting but also they are held out against a dark blue sky in the background and almost pure black waves at the bottom of the frame.(forming lots of negative space)


The next element that pops out is a person sitting in the back of the boat. The face significantly brighter than from anyone else as well as a bright lit area behind him to separate him with his dark hair from the dark boat. That’s clearly the area Rembrandt wants you to take a closer look next. You will notice that this person(Jesus) compared to everyone else on the boat is pretty calm and without any fear of what’s going to happen. This already tells the entire story which is incredible clever executed.


clear read, depth & dimensionality:

Now that we know the story of the painting its time to take a closer look on how Rembrandt managed to achieve a clear read for all of the person on the boat. I will cover a few of them and will leave the rest for you to discover :-). Lets start with allegedly Rembrandt himself holding tight to the rope. His entire front body falls almost into pure darkness. To give him extra depth Rembrandt gave him some space between him and the person in the grey coat as well as placing him in front of a lighter background. His shoulders are a lot brighter compared to his lower back giving him extra dimensionality it almost looks like he is leaning out of the boat even out of the painting.


To separate this person he painted him half bald and with bright hands to get a clear read that he is praying.


The person with the light blue jacket holding tight to the sail is another great example on how to separate foreground and background. Rembrandt added extra lit splashes of water between the person and the dark sails. Imagine how it would look like without it. His entire back would blend into the dark sails.


Guess why Rembrandt painted the person in the middle of this crop with white hair and the other one below with brownish here.


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