Sunday, December 1, 2013

Rubens, Peter Paul

The Farm at Laken (Bauernhof bei Laeken)
oil on canvas
size unknown
Royal Collection, Buckingham Palace, London, England
The peasant girls are painted larger than was usual for such additional figures in Flemish landscape painting. Depicted in the same sculptural style as the figures in contemporary history paintings, they are placed emphatically in the foreground. Moreover, they are approached sympathetically. The woman standing, carrying a basket on her head, is even painted in a very dignified pose. This explicitly positive approach to simple countryfolk is the more striking when it is remembered that in the genre painting the image of the peasant would continue to bear a pejorative accent until almost the middle of the seventeenth century.     

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Flemish Baroque painter, was a classically educated humanist scholar, art collector, and diplomat who was knighted by both Philip IV, King of Spain, and Charles I, King of England, who was the greatest exponent of Baroque painting's dynamism, vitality, and sensuous exuberance. He was well-known for his altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. His work is a fusion of the traditions of Flemish realism with the classical tendencies of the Italian Renaissance and is one of the most methodically assimilative and most prodigiously productive of Western artists.

Rubens's influence in 17th-century Flanders was overwhelming, and it was spread elsewhere in Europe by his journeys abroad and by pictures exported from his workshop. He is a central figure in the history of Western art and artists at almost every period have responded to the force of his genius. Perhaps most noticeably in France, where Watteau, Delacroix, and Renoir were among his greatest admirers.

He died from gout on May 30, 1640 and was interred in Saint Jacob's church, Antwerp. He had eight children, three with Isabella and five with Helene (in 1630, four years after the death of his first wife, the 53-year-old painter married 16-year-old Helene Fourment); his youngest child was born eight months after his death. His fondness of painting full-figured women gave rise to the terms 'Rubensian' or 'Rubenesque' for plus-sized women.