Rubens is one of the great masters of the Flemish school. He was born in Siegen, Westphalia. In 1599 he was admitted a master of the Brotherhood of St. Luke in Antwerp. He traveled to Italy in 1600 to view the work of the great masters. He entered the service of Vicenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, as Gentleman of the Chamber and court painter. He was dispatched on a mission to Phillp of Spain in 1605, beginning a diplomatic career for which his keen intelect, polished urbanity, and linguistic achievement qualified him. While in Madrid he painted many Spanish nobels as well as historical subjects. He settled in Antwerp and was appointed court painter to the Archduke Albert and his wife Isabella. His masterpiece,
Discent from the Cross was completed in 1614. Marie de Medicis, the French Queen Mother, invited Rubens to France in 1620 to assist in the decoration of the Luxembourg Palace. He undertook 24 large works commemorating her mairrage to Henry IV. In the ensuing years he undertook a series of diplomatic mission s that brought him to the English, French, and Spanish courts. In return for these services he was knighted by both Charles I (England) and Philip IV (Spain). His portraits are mostly of adults, but family portraits do provide some insights into the clothes worn by 17th Century children.
Peter Paul Rubens' father from Antwerp, but he was a Calvanist. He took his family to Germany so he could pratice his religion.
The Rubens family had a tumultuous life. The family was Flemish, but lived in Germany because the Spanish authorities in Antwerp only allowed the practice of Catholocism. The family lived for a while in to Cologne. His father was nearly executed as a result of an affair with the princess of Orange. His wife played a key role in getting her husband released. The family was exiled to Siegen in Westphalia. Peter Paul was born in Siegen, Westphalia in 1577. He was the sixth child, Peter Paul, was born. Rubens spent much of his childhood in Germany and learned German while there. When his father died, his mother returned to Antwerp with the family in 1587. She then had her son brought up and educated as a Catholic.
Living as a widow, little money was available for the children's education.
When Rubens was 14 years old in 1591, his mother arranged for him to enter the household of a Flemish princess as a page boy. He was not happy with the boring pomp and ritual of the household and his duties as a pageboy. It did expose him to art and provide him some contacts which were useful in pursuing his interest in art.
Rubens arranged for her son to apprentice under Antwerp painters Tobias Verhaecht. Then he worked under Adam van Noort, and finally Otho Venius. Working under three competent painters acquinted him with different techniques and approaches. Venius convinced him of the need to travel to Italy to see the work of the great Italian renaissance masters.
Rubens in 1598 or 99 was accepted as master in the Brotherhood of St. Luke (Lukas Guild) in Antwerp. He continued working in Venius’s workshop until 1600.
Travel was a key part of the development of a young painter. It was esopecially important to gop to Italy to view the work of the great Reaissance masters. At the time there were no established museums where the woitks of great artists could be viewed locally. Rubens traveled to Italy in 1600 to view the work of the great
masters. He entered the service of Vicenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, as
Gentleman of the Chamber and court painter in 1600. Rubens was more than the cort painter, but became a companion of the Duke. He traveled with him to Florence and Rome, affording the opportunity to view the great master works of the Renaissance. While in Florence he attended the marriage of Marie de' Medici to King Henry IV of France. The ceremony apparently made a considerable impression on him. While in
Italy, Rubens devoted himself to studying and copying several of the Renaissance masters. He seems particularly impressed with Titian, Tintoretto, and Raphael. He was also impressed with the work of several contemporary artists, especially Caravaggio and Carracci.
Rubens was dispatched on a mission to Phillp of Spain in 1605, beginning a diplomatic career for which his keen intelect, polished urbanity, and linguistic achievement qualified him. While in Madrid he painted many Spanish nobels as well as historical subjects.
Rubens is one of the great masters of the Flemish school. He returned to Flanders and settled in Antwerp during 1608. By this time he had already achieved a considerable reputation. He was appointed court painter to the Archduke Albert and his wife Isabella in 1609. During his Antwerp period he was given many commissions from the Catholic Church, state and nobility. Many were religious or classical in subject matter, unlike the Dutch artists at the time who focused on mundane aspects of everyday life. The Rubens works from this era were warmly received and are toiday classics of Flemish art.
His masterpiece from this period is "Discent from the Cross", completed in 1614. The renounded Gobelin factory produced tapestries based on Rubens' sketches. Engravers reproduced his paintings som prints could be distributed througout Europe. His most important commission at this tikme was from the Dowager Queen Mother of France. She commissioned him in 1621 to do a series of 21/24 paintings for Marie de’Medici, the widow of King Henry IV. Here Ruben's diplomatic skills were sorely tested. The commission was to depict Marie's life and commemorate her marriage to Henry IV. They were to be used to decorate her Paris palace, the Luxembourg Palace. It was not a simple undertaking. The Queen was not beautiful which presents a severe challenge for a portratist. Such women donot want to be depicted as ugly, but they also do not want portraits that do not look like them. In addition, she lived a rather dull life in her palace and had a notoriously prickly temperment. She irritaed her husband Henry IV with demands for money and then constantly disrupted her son with unwanted advise. He oirdered her out of Paris. Rubens diplomatic and artistic skills, however, were up to the task. It took 3 years, but he completed the 21 works in 1624.
In the ensuing years he undertook a series of further diplomatic mission s that brought him to the English, French, and Spanish courts. In return for these services he was knighted by both Charles I (England) and Philip IV (Spain).
His portraits are mostly of adults, but family portraits do provide some insights into the clothes worn by 17th Century children. One of the best known is his portrait of his sons Albert and Nicholas during 1624-25. The self portrait here with his younger son Peter Paul was done several years later in 1639 (figure 1). A wonderful family protrait is the onme he did of his friend and colleague Jan Bruegel the Elder (1614)
Rubens as he became famous, like many other successful artists, began hiring assistants to meet the demand for his portraits. Most are individuals whose names are lost to history. A few are known. One young assistant was Antoon van Dyck who became a great master in his own tight. The most important assistantv who stayed with Rubens was was Frans Snyders who became a fixture in Rubens' studio. One art historian believes that Snyders worked on or was actually responsible for many of Rubens' most admire works. [Bordley]
Rubens married twice and fathered eight children. He first fellmin love with and married Isabella Brant after returing to Antwerp from Italy in 1609. He built a himself and his new wife a large house in Antwerp and set up his studio there (1611). He transformed the house at the Wapper into a painters workshop and many great works were painted there. He and Isabella had three children. Rubens painted a portrait of his sons Albert and Nicholus about 1625. Their clothing is a testimony to his material success as an artist. Isabella died in 1626. He married Hélène Fourment (1630). She was only 17-years old and the daughter of a friend, tapestry merchant Daniel Fourment. He and Hélène had five more children. He used Hélène as a subject for quite a number of portraits.
Rubens after his patron the Archduchess Isabella died, gradually began to withdraw from court life. He acquired castle Steen near Mecheln. His final important commission was to decorate the hunting lodge of Spanish King ???, the Torre de la Parada near Madrid. He did design the decoration, but was too ill to actually paint it. He died in 1640.
Rubens wass an artuist of towering importance in Euroopean art. As the world's most famous, wealthy, influential and versatile painter his influence over the art of his age would find no parallel until the career of Picasso. He had an enormous impact on European art. For one thing he was enormously prolifuc. There are perhaps 3,000 pieces if art thought to have been executed by him. He is widely believed to have been the greatest of the Baroque artists. He helped to unify aspects of Northern or Flemosh art with that of the Italian masters. The result proved highly influential. He also had a nimber of students who went on to becomne major artists in their own right. Perhaps the most famouis is Van Dyck. Van Dyck, who seems to have got along badly with his own father, adopted Rubens as a surrogate parent. Rubens returned the compliment, finding in his talented new pupil a phenomenally quick and willing disciple.
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