Peter Paul Rubens 1577-1640 BACK

Rubens was exceptionally intelligent and prided himself on his diplomatic skills. His writing abilities matched his painting talents. The work of Rubens shows continuous development and can be divided roughly into periods. The first covers his formative years, his stay in Italy and Antwerp. Colors were laid on broadly, the paintings were strong in contrast with harsh modelling of the figures and academic drawings. The influences of Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto is very evident. The second took place very gradually starting around 1612. The paint became more luminous, though still opaque. Fluency and facility combined and formed an exuberant style suitable to workshop practice and the mass production of paintings. During the final phase which started about 1625, he achieved complete mastery with his vital, free, and expressive brushwork. His brilliance of color and the sensual feeling for the tactile- human flesh and materials- has not been paralleled since.

An excerpt from Rubens by Kristin Lohse Belkin:
Combining the duties of court painter with those of directing a busy workshop may seem a daunting task, but Rubens' talents appear to have been well suited to demanding, large-scale endeavors. In a passage dated September 162 1 he wrote:

I confess that I am, by natural instinct, better fitted to execute very large works than small curiosities. Everyone according to his gifts; my talent is such that no undertaking, however vast in size or diversified in subject, has ever surpassed my courage.

The passage refers to the decoration of the King of England's Banqueting House in Whitehall, London, then under construction, for which Rubens did indeed receive the commission many years later . And although his own view of his capabilities may appear immodest, even boastful, it is certainly honest.

Rubens' appointment as court painter had gained him exemption from the usual regulations of the Antwerp Painters' Guild, which included the paying of taxes and restrictions on the number of pupils a master could admit. This arrangement enabled him to establish the kind of studio essential for the numerous commissions he was to receive. However, there are signs that even Rubens may at times have found his freedom a mixed blessing. Already by May 1611 he was writing to a friend in Brussels, who had recommended a young man to his care, that he was not in a position to offer him admittance to his workshop, because, as he continued with some concern, 'I can tell you truly, without exaggeration, that I have had to refuse over one hundred, even some of my own relatives or my wife's, and not without causing great displeasure among many of my best friends.'

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Image List
Descent from the Cross

The Four Philosophers

Judgement of Paris

Self Portrait

Susanna Fourment

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