What other master’s said about Rubens’s
‘Rubens is the nastiest, most vulgar painter ever lived’ – Thomas aikins
‘To my eyes my eyes, Ruben’s coloring is contemptible, his shadows are filthy brown and somewhat in the color of excrement’ – William Blake
‘He is gifted but he has used his gift make nasty things’ – Picasso
These are just some of the views on the greatest baroque painter of all time. But let me stop your right there and tell you that today, I will enumerate at least 10 different geniuses of the man.
So welcome to my favourite and most hated baroque absolute master, Peter Paul Rubens.
You would have to agree that his religion is too over the top, too violent, too chaotic, too Catholic. And his fleshy pink silly goods, doing silly things in almost outrageous religious pantomimes.
And his women, OH MY GOD, his women, as his critics called them his wives were depicted as they were. They carry too much cellulite, women in art can’t be that fat? Can they?
But Rubens art also had backing and was for a one powerful woman, the Art loving, Queen of France, Mary, the Medici.
The impact of Rubens’ work
With Rubens there is always too much to look at, like in ‘the fall of the damned’, it is downright scary, so many bodies in one picture.
But if you give it a good look, the details emerge and you will find fascinating details.
Such is the genius of the man that he always gave more, because he was so inventive and daring, one needed to get closer to appreciate his art, once you do that he is delightful.
He was born after the war started and died before it ended
There was Spanish Netherlands, France, England and Spain of course. Split on religious lines, Protestant, catholic and Calvinists.
What followed was the 80 year war, Rubens, Ruben was born during it and died at 63 before the war ended. So all his life, he saw was south at war with north and that was all his reality.
His shining moment
His school and the new kings, Albert and his wife Isabella were quick to notice his work and gave his royal patronage.
The new woman in his life and the love of his life
Near his studio lived Isabella brandt, they met, and got married, she was 18, he was 32.
He was clearly in love with her, as changed the female principle in all his paintings to his wife. Like the wedding picture, showing them all loved up and content.
Other times, he painted her as Mary, looking after baby Jesus, in his nativity depiction and painted his son Albert as Jesus.
Let’s talk some of his amazing work
Amongst his greatest work is the ‘the descent from the cross’ in the Antwerp cathedral.
His depiction of Jesus on different panels is one of the most amazing artwork, where Jesus’ body is shown resting its leg on the shoulder of Mary Magdalene.
His Samson and Delilah tells and shows probably the most evocative and intimate moment with women, post coitus.
He painted the post coital exhaustion on the request to warn men of the sin of women.
In his ‘Massacre of the innocents’, she is even wearing the same dress and other times, he depicts them all nude and in all different shades.
You would his think that his genius ends there, but like I said, Rubens always has more
The extraordinary collaboration with Van Breugel
The pair, two great names by themselves, painted a series 5 paintings, allegories for the five senses. Each one different, one with flowers has a sense of smell, one with a telescope is sight and so on.. but the best part about this artwork is that Van Breugal painted the still elements of the pictures like the elements of the composition. After that, he sent the panel to Rubens next door, who then painted in the characters.
If not a painter, he would be the consummate politician of this age and advisor this queen
His head of Medusa clearly shows his political acumen, spotting which his queen, Isabella sent him on a mission of his life, so the painter was not a diplomat on a mission to save the world.
And guess what he delivered.
He convinced three warring cousins of France, Spanish Netherlands and king of England to make truce.
The king of England was so impressed with Rubens that he gave him a Knighthood and diamond stuffed headgear.
After his return from the tour, he retired from politics from good and went back to his first love and expanded the techniques and scope of the art, for this he learnt mathematics, biology, chemistry and it gets pretty complicated but Rubens not only created it but mastered it.
And to his other great love in life, women
She reappears with remarkable frequency and he paints her so beautifully as a series of different forms and characters, just like he did with his first wife.
In his painting, he casts his wife as Venus of Antwrep but in her imperfect curves, he also shows his appreciation for her humanity.
Now, that is happy man in a happy marriage telling us how he feels about it
His skill sets:
- Best art religious art
- Very entertaining mythologies
- Great portraitist
- Size was his scale was unchallenged, he painted on large wood panels
- He is always inventive
- Technically as good as anyone, a wizard of the paint brush
- A good collaborator
- He designed some of the best tapestries
- He was an architect, the designed the church of Jesuits in antwerp
- He was also a amazing landscape painter
And yeah, he stopped that war, charming and painting his way into courts of two kings and winning them over.