Admired for his brilliant colors, sensual forms, luxuriant, painterly brushstrokes woven into elaborate compositions, Rubens invented an idiom that combined the classical grandeur of the Italian High Renaissance, observed first-hand during an extended stay in Italy, with the naturalistic tendencies of the North.
Rubens championed the concept of ‘ut pictura poesis’ and had an unrivaled power to transform classical art and literature into vivid imagery and theatrical drama, drawing on his personal erudition and interest in Antiquity, which he collected and sketched from life. As court painter to the rulers of the Spanish Netherlands, Rubens became the standard-bearer of a spiritual renewal for the State and its interconnected courts. His ascendence to international stardom was connected to the diplomatic missions he undertook to France and England. Rubens also became the trending status symbol painter among Antwerp’s higher bourgeois and burgher echelons. He ran a thriving workshop in Antwerp that involved the foremost talents of his time, notably Van Dyck (1599–1641) and Jordaens (1593–1678), and collaborated with other leading specialists such as Jan Breughel (1568–1625) and Frans Snyders (1579–1657) to broaden his reach. Rubens’ artistic offspring in the centuries to follow consist of the old and modern masters of the highest calibre — to name a few, Watteau (1684–1721), Boucher (1703–70), Gainsborough (1727–88), Delacroix (1798–1863), Böcklin (1827–1901), Renoir (1841–1919) Picasso (1881–1973), de Kooning (1904–97) and Freud (1922–2011) — all of whom contributed to his enduring influence in the story of art.
Books on Peter Paul Rubens
Friso Lammertse and Alejandro Vergara, Rubens: Painter of Sketches, exh. cat., Madrid and Rotterdam, 2018.
Gelinde Gruber, Sabine Haag, Stefan Weppelmann and Jochen Sander eds., Rubens: The Power of Transformation, exh. cat., Munich, 2017.
Tim J. Barringer, Rubens and His Legacy, exh. cat, London, 2014.
Peter C. Sutton, The Age of Rubens, exh. cat., New York, 1993.
Peter C. Sutton, Marjorie E. Wieseman and Nico van Hout, eds., Drawn by the Brush, Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens, exh. cat., New Haven, 2004.
Cornelis de Bie, Het Gulden Cabinet vande Edel Vry Schilder-Const, 1662, reprint, Antwerp, 1971.