|Rubens - Homer of Painting|
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1649) is often called "Prince of Baroque Painters". His influence on the painters of his century was enormous, as it was on sculpture and architecture. He was a versatile genius and rivaled in inventive power the great minds of the Baroque. He was a humanist and classical archaeologist, a sumptuous designer of religious, historical and allegorical canvases and a supreme master in ‘pure’ landscape. Rubens left about three thousands of works which are scattered through collections and museums across the world.
Rubens went far beyond his predecessors, and attracted and fascinated his successors,
from Van Dyck to Watteau, Boucher to Delacroix and from Renoir and early Cezanne to
Matisse. His profane and mythological compositions fascinated
his successors so much that Delacroix called him the "Homer of Painting".
He built up and managed his Antwerp studio that was famous throughout the continent,
where he trained his assistants and collaborators, who later became famous painters as
Anthony van Dyck, Jordaens, Snyders and Cornelis de Vos,
and many others less famous. No artist has ever been as well educated as Rubens. He was a genius of
his time. Hi was not only a painter, he was also a successful diplomat, who earned
a European-wide reputation after the peace-negotiations between England and Spain in 1630.
His great intelligence, talent, knowledge of Classical Antiquity, diplomatic and organizing
skills, and the divergence of attention impressed and attracted his contemporaries attention.
Otto Sperling, doctor to the Danish king, wrote about his visit he made to Rubens' studio
In his style he successfully united the features of Northern and Flemish art with t hose of Italy. Moreover, he brought to the High Renaissance art his vivid dynamism, realism and naturalism which the French critic Roger de Piles in 1677 commented in these words:
"He was so strongly persuaded that the aim of the painter was to imitate nature perfectly, that he did nothing without consulting her, and there has never been a painter who has observed and who has known better than he how to give to objects their true and distinctive character ... And he carried this knowledge so far, with a bold but wise and skillful exaggeration of these characteristics, that he rendered painting more alive and more natural, so to speak, than nature itself."
He was not only one who criticized Rubens attentiveness to nature. Bellori found particularly distressing that the artist, in working form the best models of the past, transformed them so drastically. He wrote:
"Though he had the highest admiration for Raphael and the antique, he never imitated either in any part, and though he may have wished to follow the lineaments of the statues of Apollo, of Venus, or of the Gladiator, he altered them so much by his style that he left no more form or vestige of these statues by which they might be recognized".
On the other hand, Rubens in his treatise for young painters "On the imitation of statues" warned them against reproducing their cold and stony lustre" "Those who, instead of painting flesh, only represent marble in colour, offer an affront to Nature." "Figures should appear to be animated by the pulse of life" toughed he. "The pulse of life" is a quintessence of his work "Andromeda" inspired by the ancient myth. The world of ancient myths has been explored and painted in 1400s but it was only in sixteenth century that its full dramatic, poetic and sensual potential was realized.
Andromeda was a daughter of the king of Ethiopia, Cepheus.
Her beauty was known in all his kingdom. Her mother, Cassiopea, claimed
that her daughter was even more beautiful than all the Nereids.
In jealousy Nereids asked Poseidon to send a monster to waste Cepheus's kingdom.
An oracle foretold that the country would be spared if Andromeda,
whose beauty was a course of their mischief, were given to the monster.
The people of Ethiopia forced Cepheus save them by sacrificing
his daughter. In this stage, Andromeda chained to a rock to be devoured
by a sea-monster.
Ruben's rendering of anatomy of the woman body was so realistic, that it never allow us to forget the mind and hand of the crator. The exuberance of woman body express Ruben's own taste, his powerful individuality and sensibility. Prevailing in his works the woman's opulent form and taste for buxom nude was inspirered by his pasionate love to his first wife Isabella Brandt, and later to his second wife Helena Fourment. This unique exurbance, stage-management style of painting of naked women was given by some scholars a name "the Rubenesque", which was later expanded to cover his whole artistic creation.
At the time of his second marriage Rubens was over fifty and his young second wife,
Helena Fourment was no older than his elder son. His unexpected decision Rubens
explained himself in the letter to Peiresec:
List of major works by Peter Paul Rubens in chronological order:
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