Sir Peter Paul Rubens (June 28, 1577 - May 30, 1640) was a Flemish painter and an early exponent of Baroque. He was a very extraordinary man, and not only because of his achievements in painting - his studio produced an incredible number of works - but he also played an important diplomatic role in European politics in the 17th century, so it is not surprising that he was the diplomatic genius of painting!
Rubens was born in Siegen, Germany. At the age of 13, he got his first job as a valet for a countess. Therefore, he had the opportunity to receive an orthodox aristocratic education. He then had an understanding of the upper class's etiquette and customs, learned to deal with people, and became proficient in multiple languages. In 1592, he was introduced to the art of painting and studied for four years with Tobias Verhaecht, Adam van Noort, and Otto van Veen, which paved the way for his subsequent success. By the time he finished his studies and joined the Guild of Saint Luke, named after the patron saint of artists, he was a full-fledged painter. In 1600 he embarked on a journey to Italy in order to witness for himself the great Renaissance and Classical works he had learned from his copy. He traveled and worked in Spain for eight years, copying and absorbing Renaissance and Classical art.
In 1608, when his mother died, he immediately returned to Antwerp, and in 1609, at the age of 33, he was appointed court painter to Albert VII, Archduke of Austria. The following year, he married Isabella Brant, which also gave him some opportunities to participate in diplomatic missions. He painted many portraits of his wife and lived a life of luxury and stability. From 1621 to 1630, Rubens was commissioned by the Spanish royal family to visit many European countries for diplomatic work. The most famous achievement was the successful establishment of friendly relations between Spain and England. From 1630 to 1640, he was old, and his fingers were deformed due to rheumatism, but he continued to paint. In his final years, Rubens spent more time with his new young family in his country house, the Steen. He painted more landscapes, usually for his own enjoyment, not for sale.
Becoming an Artist
Rubens was baptized Catholic as a child in Antwerp and remained unconverted throughout his life, and religion became a very important theme in the painter's career. Most of his paintings focus on religious themes, portraits, and ancient mythology. For instance, his painting The Elevation of the Cross perfectly reflects his painting style and artistic characteristics, with a series of contrasting compositions and colors and the figures' expressions and dynamics. The painting The Three Graces celebrates the strength and beauty of the human being and features a fleshy, voluptuous woman. Rubens combined the skill and humanism of Renaissance art with Flemish folk art traditions, resulting in an imposing, colorful, athletic style that celebrates the joys of life with passion. He became the representative figure of Baroque. The Baroque style he created influenced Europe for a century in art history.
“My passion comes from the heavens, not from earthly musings.”
“I'm just a simple man standing alone with my old brushes, asking God for inspiration.”
“White is poison to a picture: use it only in highlights.”