Rembrandt’s c.1654 painting, Hendrickje Bathing in a River, is housed in the National Gallery, London. It is believed to depict Rembrandt’s partner Hendrickje Stoffels while she takes a vulnerable step into her bath. The young woman appears up to her knees in a stream with a smile as she lifts her shift and looks down at the water.
Rembrandt demonstrates expressionism with this painting, eliciting an array of emotions from its viewers. His use of light and shadow creates depth and brings attention to the focal point of the piece: Hendrickje. Scholars argue that this painting may have been part of Rembrandt’s personal collection because it was not intended for public exhibition.
While studying for his paintings, many believe that Rembrandt often used models as references, and Hendrickje served as inspiration for more than one work. In addition to Bathing in a River, she may have also modeled for his Bathsheba at Her Bath painting.
Through works like Hendrickje Bathing in a River, Rembrandt established himself as one of the most prolific painters, draftsmen, and printmakers during the Dutch Golden Age. This particular piece captures intimate details that reveal both vulnerability and strength portrayed by his subject through body language communicated explicitly through this expressive artwork.