The most important work from this time is The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp, which brought a whole new vitality to the group portrait.
Rembrandt’s success in the 1630s was personal as well. 1634 he married Saskia van Uylenburch; his tender portraits of her reflect a blissful union, but their happiness was marred by a succession of infant deaths. Of their 4 children, only Titus (1641-68) lived longer than 2 months. Saskia herself died in 1642, the year Rembrandt painted his most famous picture, the misnamed Night Watch, the culminating work of the Dutch tradition of civic guard portraits (a genre particularly associated with Frans Hals). In spite of a 19th c story regarding the clients’ dissatisfaction, evidence suggests this picture was well received.
Although portraits and religious works bulk largest in his output, he made highly original contributions to other genres, including still life. And he painted some - such as The Polish Rider – which defy classification.
Nevertheless, in the 1640s Rembrandt’s life did take a downward turn. He concentrated more on religious and landscape pieces, and his style grew more introspective. There were domestic problems, too. Geertge Dircx, a widow employed as nanny to Titus, sued Rembrandt for breach of promise after his affections turned to Hendrickje Stoffels, a servant some twenty years his junior. Unpleasant legal proceedings ended with Geertge’s remand to an asylum. Because of a clause in Saskia’s will, Rembrandt was unable to marry Hendrickje, but they were together the rest of her life, and she bore him two children. (A daughter, Cornelia, born in 1654, was the only child to outlive him.) Financial difficulties, too, led to the sale of his beautiful home and his collections; in 1660 he moved to a poorer district. Although his final years were saddened by the deaths of both Titus and Hendrickje, Rembrandt continued to be respected, and worked till the end. He faced life with dignity, neither disillusioned nor bitter.