|Peter Paul Rubens
known for paintings of vast scale,
brilliant colors, and emotional intensity
Peter Paul Rubens was born in
Siegen, Germany, on June 28, 1577. After his
father died in 1587, his mother returned with her
children to her native city of Antwerp. There,
Rubens studied under local painters. In 1600 he
moved to Italy, where he was employed as a
painter by Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. In
1603, the Duke sent Rubens to Spain as a member
of a diplomatic mission. After returning to
Italy, he continued his painting and art studies.
Returning to Antwerp in 1608, Rubens was
offered several important commissions for
paintings. In 1609, he married Isabella Brant, a
member of a prominent Antwerp family, with whom
he had three children. That same year, Rubens
became court painter to the Brussels court of
Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella. Rubens'
fame as a painter soon spread, and noblemen and
women throughout Europe sought his services. He
also received many commissions from churches.
After his wife died in 1626,
Rubens accepted diplomatic assignments involving
peace negotiations between England and Spain. His
assignments took him to Madrid in 1628 and to
London in 1629, where King Charles I of England
knighted him for his skill in diplomacy.
Rubens married again in 1630
and gradually withdrew from political life. His
second wife was Hélène Fourment, a 16-year-old
member of another prominent Antwerp family.
Rubens painted her many times, and the couple had
five children together. After 1635, Rubens spent
much time at his country estate near Brussels,
where he painted many of his most beautiful
Peter Paul Rubens died in
Antwerp on May 30, 1640.
To carry out his commissions
for large-scale works, Rubens trained several
young artists to be his assistants. His procedure
was to set up the canvas, draw in preliminary
outlines, sketch in the various figures, and
design the color schemes. Much of the actual
painting was done by his assistants, but Rubens
usually completed the works himself. He never
claimed any of his assistants' pictures as his
own unless he had retouched them thoroughly. One
of his most famous assistants was the Flemish
artist Anton Van Dyck.
The most important influence on
Rubens' style was the ancient Roman sculpture he
studied in Italy. He was also influenced by the
paintings and sculptures of such Italian
Renaissance artists as Michelangelo, Raphael,
Tintoretto, Titian, and Paolo Veronese. Among the
artists of his own time, Rubens especially
admired Michelangelo Caravaggio and Annibale
Rubens' paintings are known for
their vast scale, brilliant colors, and emotional
intensity. He completed an enormous number of
works. In one commission during the 1620's alone,
he painted 24 large pictures on the life of Marie
de Médicis, the widow of King Henry IV of
France. From 1630 to 1635, he painted nine huge
canvases for the Banqueting House at Whitehall in
London. In the mid-1630's, he organized the
artists of Antwerp to decorate structures in the
city according to his designs to celebrate the
visit of a new Spanish governor.
Rubens' subjects include
hunting scenes, Biblical episodes, stories from
classical mythology, portraits and
self-portraits, and landscapes.
||Daniel in the
Lions' Den, ca. 1615, on display at
the Uffizi Gallery.
1638-40, on display at The Hermitage, St.
||The Village Fête,
1635-38, on display at the Louvre.
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