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Peter Paul Rubens

Flemish Painter

Peter Paul Rubens Photo
Movement: The Baroque

Born: June 28, 1577 - Siegen, Westphalia

Died: May 30, 1640 - Antwerp, Belgium

Summary of Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens epitomized the "gentleman" artist archetype. Productive, professional, and moving with ease amongst both artistic and political circles, he exemplified what it meant to be a proper courtly painter of the 17th century, elevating his own life to the same standards of leisure and excellence afforded his patrons. He famously fused a mastery of Flemish realism with the traditions of the Italian Renaissance to produce a powerful and exuberant style that epitomized the immensely popular Baroque movement, promoted by the Counter Reformation in efforts to re-establish the grandeur of the Catholic Church. This style emphasized movement, color, drama, and sensuality, and reinvigorated painting with a new lust for life after a relatively conservative period for art. Rubens' signature portrayal of the female form was coined "Rubenesque," a term that remains widely recognized today to describe voluptuous nudes.

Key Ideas

Rubens is most known for his highly charged compositions that reference aspects of classical and Christian history. His altarpieces, portraits, and landscapes of mythological and allegorical subjects give a true glimpse of the concerns and climate of the times in which he lived.
Alongside Raphael, Rubens was pivotal in establishing the concept of a thriving artist's studio into the art lexicon. His large studio in Antwerp was a production hub for paintings popular with nobility and art collectors throughout Europe. His bustling workshop employed many artists and apprentices who would help accomplish a large and prolific volume of work.
His pleasant, affable demeanor and shrewd business sense enabled Rubens to be a most effective diplomat as well as artist. At a time when paintings were under scrutiny by religious authority to ensure their content properly validated the church's importance above all, these amiable traits allowed him perhaps more poetic license in his output than others less genially inclined.
Peter Paul Rubens Photo

Peter Paul Rubens was one of six children born into a working-class family of tanners, lawyers, and burgesses in Antwerp, the busiest and richest seaport in Europe at the time. His father Jan Rubens, a lawyer and alderman, was involved in politics and other social affairs while his mother Maria Pypelinckx was an heiress and writer from the Southern Netherlands. He was named for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the liturgical feast in honor of the ancient martyrdom in Rome, which occurs on June 29.

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