The Art Gallery of Ontario, in collaboration with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, is mounting a major exhibition of works by the Flemish Baroque painter—the biggest US exhibition dedicated to the artist in over a decade. Titled “The Early Celebrity of Peter Paul Rubens,” it has now opened in Ontario, after first being exhibited in San Francisco.
Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) was both a prodigious artist and one of the most extraordinary figures of the seventeenth century. Renowned for his virtuosic handling of oil paint, his taut depiction of dramatic action, and his sensuous coloring, Rubens was also an international diplomat, a shrewd businessman, a widely-read intellectual, a friend to scholars and monarchs, and the master of a prolific workshop. His early biographers regularly present Rubens as an aristocrat-artist, the favorite of Europe’s noble class, but this was far from an assured outcome. The Early Celebrity of Peter Paul Rubens will focus on what is arguably the artist’s most innovative period of production, from 1608 until about 1620. It was during these years that Rubens came to dominate Flemish painting through a series of social and artistic choices that laid the groundwork for his international fame and established a visual style that would guide ambitious painters for generations to come.
[Image caption: Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), The Tribute Money (detail), 1612
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco]