JUNE 28,1577 – MAY 30, 1640
History of the Artist
The most sought-after painter in northern Europe during the seventeenth century, Peter Paul Rubens, was also a diplomat, linguist, and scholar. His dramatic artistic style of the seventeenth century is now called "baroque," a term apparently derived at a later time from ornate jewelry set with irregular pearls. At its most exuberant, the baroque involves restless motion, startling color contrasts, and vivid clashes of light and shadow. Rubens was born in Siegen, Westphalia, to Jan Rubens and Maria Pypelincks. Born the son of a lawyer and educated at a Jesuit school in Antwerp, Flanders, Rubens learned classical and modern languages. He spent the years 1600 to 1608 studying and working in Italy. Returning to Antwerp, he continued to travel as both courtier and painter. His repeated visits to Madrid, Paris, and London allowed him to negotiate treaties while accepting royal commissions for art. One of Rubens' major innovations in procedure, which many later artists have followed, was his use of small oil studies as compositional sketches for his large pictures and tapestry designs. Rather than merely drawing, Rubens painted his modelli, or models, thereby establishing the color and lighting schemes and the distributions of shapes simultaneously. Rubens managed a very large studio in Antwerp, training many apprentices and employing independent colleagues to help execute specific projects. Among his mature collaborators whose baroque works are on view in the National Gallery of Art are Anthony van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens, Jan Brueghel, and Frans Snyders.
Rubens' style tremendously influenced baroque painters throughout Europe, even those such as the German-born Johann Liss who had no documented contact with the master. Liss' The Satyr and the Peasant, for instance, is Rubensian in its lively gestures and telling expressions. Painted during the 1620s in Italy, it illustrates...