Becoming Famous. Peter Paul Rubens

22 October 2021 – 20 February 2022

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) is considered the most successful painter of the Baroque period. His paintings are characterised by an impressive, colourful pictorial language with a high recognition value. Even Rubens' contemporaries were prepared to pay top prices for his works. But how did he manage to rise to become a painter celebrated throughout Europe?

The exhibition showed how Rubens laid the foundations for his later success in his early creative years. As the son of a respected family, he had the necessary start-up capital and met influential friends and later patrons while still at school. Added to this was his artistic talent and his great ambition to achieve social and monetary recognition as an artist. Rubens left Antwerp in 1600 to study the art of antiquity, the Renaissance and his contemporaries in Italy. He continually expanded his network: he became court painter to the Duke of Mantua, painted portraits of members of the most influential families in Genoa and successfully competed with other artists.

After his return to Antwerp, Rubens builds up an efficient workshop that can produce a large number of paintings in a short time and in high quality through an efficient division of labour. A concise pictorial language becomes his trademark. The prominent placement of his works in churches or high-ranking collections and the wide distribution of his paintings make Rubens a sought-after brand. He responds to supply and demand by having lower cost copies of his famous pictorial inventions made. Even in the mass production of paintings, the emphasis is on innovation and artistic quality. Rubens remains a lifelong seeker after the perfect, emotionally stirring form and the convincing image. His motifs soon became known throughout Europe, not least because of the extensive production of copper engravings.

The exhibition comprised some 90 paintings and works on paper from the museum's own holdings as well as high-quality loans from international museums and collections. Under the title "Things Matter", a selection of contemporary photographs complemented the exhibition. The photographic positions take a stand on topics such as racism, climate change and consumption and are thus a direct reaction to today.

The exhibition was curated by Prof. Dr. Nils Büttner and Dr. Sandra-Kristin Diefenthaler. The exhibition was realised in cooperation with the Rubenianum in Antwerp and the Academy of Fine Arts.

360° tour

Our exhibition "Becoming Famous. Peter Paul Rubens" can be visited digitally anywhere and at any time. Move freely through the 360° tour and take a close look at the works. Behind-the-scenes insights also reveal exciting information about the restoration and examination of the Rubens works.

To the tour

Mosaic Rubens

Join in! Online from home, you can become part of a new "Rubens work" with your own portrait photo.

To the mosaic

The exhibition is under the joint patronage of Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and His Majesty the King of the Belgians.

Sponsored by the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts


In cooperation with

Logo der Akademie der bildenden Künste Stuttgart

 With the kind support of

Logo Wüstenrot Stiftung
EvS Logo
Flanders Logo

Freunde der Staatsgalerie Logo