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Peter Paul Rubens
Peter Paul Rubens
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Peter Paul Rubens, the great Flemish Baroque master, was born in Germany while his Protestant father was in exile.
Rubens did not return to his family's native Antwerp until after his father's death in 1589. He was then brought up as a devout Catholic and received a classical education before studying art with three successive Flemish artists. He became a member of the Antwerp Painters' Guild in 1598 and in 1600 left for Italy. Except for a brief trip to Spain, he remained in Italy for eight years, studying, traveling and working for the Duke of Mantua. It was during this period that he absorbed and expressed the ideas and influences of Michelangelo, Raphael, Correggio, and of his contemporaries, the Caracci and Caravaggio, producing religious works that already more than hinted at his later style. Upon his return to Antwerp, he became painter to the Archduke and opened his own studio, which was so busy that he was able to hire the best artists of his day to work with him. By 1616, he had fully developed a personal, dynamic style characterized by narrative action, simplicity of figure, and bold, dramatic plasticity and lighting.
As spokesman for the Catholic Counter Reformation, Rubens painted many religious works for various churches and cathedrals during this period. The years 1614-22 were marked by great self-assurance, increased fluidity in his work, and dramatic movement often expressed in pyramids of twisting bodies. These characteristics were especially evident in hunt and battle scenes of a mythological or historical nature. After his first wife died in 1626, Rubens served as a diplomat in Spain and England. The years 1622-32 were the period of his great international commissions, such as the Medici cycle for the Luxembourg Palace; and these years are marked by splendid pictorialism, and rapidity of technique. In 1630 Rubens married the young Hélèna Fourment, and from 1632 to the end of his life he lived in semi-retirement in his castle at Steen, where he began to paint landscapes with renewed interest. These landscapes were rich and warm in color and bathed in the golden glow characteristic of Titian's work. Ruben's paintings expressed the spirit of the seventeenth century. A dramatic, powerful and highly intelligent painter, Ruben was endowed with magnificent creative inventiveness.