Peter Paul Rubens and the Baroque Extravaganza

The Three Graces (1635) by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

On June 28, 1577, German-born Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens was born. He is best known for his extravagant Baroque style that emphasised movement, colour, and sensuality.

Rubens received a good formal education in mostly Latin and literature, starting with his artistic career under Tobias Verhaeght at the age of 14. To exercise, Rubens copied various images, mostly woodcuts and engraving from famous contemporary artists. After he finished his education, Rubens traveled to Italy, first stopping in Venice. The trip highly influenced his later career, as he was fascinated by Titian’s and Tintoretto‘s paintings. He enjoyed their compositions as well as their coloring styles and after the Duke promised the artist a tolerable financial aid, he moved along to Rome and Florence. The Greek and Roman art, he studied during his stay influences his very mature way of painting. Rubens also stated to have been highly inspired by the works of Caravaggio, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci, to name just a few. In this period, he completed the altarpiece commission St. Helena with the True Cross. In the following years, Rubens also created several portraits and a book illustration of the palaces of Genova.

Due to his mother‘s severe illness, Rubens moved back to Antwerp, becoming a court painter under Albert VII, Archduke of Austria now combining a diplomat and artistic career. Rubens focussed more and more on teaching young talented artists, such as Anthony van Dyck who became famous for his numerous portraits. During these years, famous pictures like ‘The Elevation of the Cross’ or the portrait of ‘Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia‘ from 1615 were completed, increasing Ruben‘s fame critically. But his fame also led to many people copying his works, mostly in the Netherlands, but also in Spain, France, and England, wherefore he established a copyright for nearly all of his pictures.

After 1621, Rubens began focussing more and more on his job as a dimplomat, travelling through Europe and being knighted several times and receiving a few honorary diplomas from several universities he visited. Still, he found time to complete several paintings like the ‘Allegory of Peace and War‘, which he finished in 1629 and gave it to Charles I as a gift.

Rubens’ images mostly focussed on religious subjects as he often dedicated his works to churches or members of the church. Also he enjoyed playing with mythological creatures and historical contexts and completed several portraits of friends as well as landscapes. He became widely known for the full figures women he passionately painted, wherefore these styles became known as Rubensian or Rubinesque. His paintings are exhibited in the most prominent art museums around the world and are worth several million dollars.

At yovisto, you may enjoy a short documentary lecture on the artist Peter Paul Rubens, as well as detailed information on his most important works and influences.

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