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PETER PAUL RUBENS 1577-1640


The Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens is considered the most important artist of the 17th century. His style came to define the animated, exuberantly sensuous aspects of Flemish baroque painting.  He was attractive, classically- educated and had a near monopoly on the portrait market in northern Europe. Most importantly for the history of art, he managed to synthesize a number of factors - from the masters of the Renaissance and the early Baroque - and create the first truly "European" style of painting.

Having converted from Catholicism to Calvinism, his father had fled Flanders with his family because of persecutions against Protestants. Rubens was born in exile in Germany. After his father's death in 1587, the family moved to Antwerp, where they again became Catholics.

From 1600 to 1608, Rubens lived in Italy. He was deeply influenced by the radiant color and majestic forms of Titian, whose work had a formative influence on Rubens's mature style. Later, while resident in Rome, he was influenced by the works of Michelangelo and Raphael, as well as by ancient Greco-Roman sculpture. His journey to Spain in 1603made (1603) had a profound impact on the development of Spanish baroque art. Returning to Antwerp, he became the court painter to the Spanish governors of Flanders and subsequently to Charles I of England and Marie de' Medici, Queen of France.

His best known works include The Elevation of the Cross (1610), The Lion Hunt (1617-18), and Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus (1617). His court portraits were in great demand, as he frequently placed their subjects in juxtaposition with gods and goddesses of mythology to better acknowledge the lofty positions of nobility and royalty. He painted religious and hunting themes, as well as landscapes, but is best known for his oft-unclothed figures of ’well-built’ women. During the final decade of his life, Rubens turned more and more to portraits, genre scenes, and landscapes.

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