Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) is considered the most successful painter of the Baroque period. His paintings are distinguished by sensuous colour and an expressive, highly charged visual language that is instantly recognisable. Even during his lifetime, collectors were prepared to pay top prices for his works. But how did the young artist become a painter who was celebrated throughout Europe?
The exhibition shows how, in the early years of his career, Rubens laid the foundations for his later success. As the son of an affluent and respected family, he enjoyed a humanist education and met influential friends and future patrons while still at school. Added to this were his formidable talent and overarching ambition to achieve social and monetary recognition as an artist. Rubens left Antwerp for Italy in 1600 to study the art of antiquity and the Renaissance as well as the work of his contemporaries. He steadily expanded his network of influential connections: he became court painter to the Duke of Mantua, portrayed members of the most influential families in Genoa and successfully competed with other artists.
After his return to Antwerp, Rubens set up a high-powered studio, which, thanks to an efficient division of labour, was able to produce large numbers of quality paintings in comparatively little time. The artist’s signature bold visual language became his trademark. The prominent placement of his works in churches and distinguished collections and the wide dissemination of his paintings make Rubens a sought-after brand. He responded to the demand for his works by authorising less expensive copies of his celebrated compositions. But even in these ‘mass produced’ paintings, innovation and artistic quality remained central to his artistic aspirations. Throughout his life, Rubens sought to achieve the perfect, emotionally touching form and the most compelling image. His motifs quickly became known across Europe, not least due to the extensive production of copper engravings.
The exhibition shows some ninety paintings and works on paper from the museum’s own holdings as well as important loans from international museums and collections. A selection of contemporary photographs, shown under the title Things Matter, complements the exhibition. The photographs address topics such as racism, climate change and consumption and are thus a direct response to our present day.
Prof. Dr. Nils Büttner from the Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart acts as guest curator of the project.
The exhibition is a Große Sonderausstellung of the state of Baden-Württemberg.
Gefördert vom Ministerium für Wissenschaft Forschung und Kunst
In cooperation with
With the kind support of