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Peter Paul Rubens  

b. 1577 Siegen, Germany, d. 1640 Antwerp, Belgium
painter; draftsman

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International diplomat, savvy businessman, devout Catholic, fluent in six languages, an intellectual who counted Europe's finest scholars among his friends, Peter Paul Rubens was always first a painter. Few artists have been capable of transforming such a vast variety of influences into a style utterly new and original. After study with local Antwerp painters, Rubens began finding his style in Italy, copying works from antiquity, Renaissance masters such as Michelangelo and Titian, and contemporaries like Annibale Carracci and Caravaggio.

He worked principally in Rome and Genoa, where Giulio Romano's frescoes influenced him greatly. Returning to Antwerp, Rubens became court painter to the Spanish Viceroys, eventually receiving commissions from across Europe and England. Rubens's energetic Baroque style blends his northern European sense of realism with the grandeur and monumentality he saw in Italian art. His characteristic free, expressive technique also captured joie de vivre.

From his workshop, with its many assistants, came quantities of book illustrations, tapestry designs, festival decorations, and paintings on every subject, which his engravers reproduced. He maintained control of the quality, while charging patrons according to the extent of his involvement on a picture. Frans Snyders, Jacob Jordaens, and Anthony van Dyck each assisted him.Rubens's impact was immediate, international, and long lasting. The works of Thomas Gainsborough and Eugène Delacroix, among others, testify to his posthumous influence.

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Rubens and Brueghel

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Groups of Apostles / Rubens
Groups of Apostles

Flemish, about 1600

Anatomical Studies / Rubens
Anatomical Studies

Flemish, about 1600

Return from War / Rubens & Brueghel
Return from War

Flemish, about 1610

Calydonian Boar Hunt / Rubens
Calydonian Boar Hunt

Flemish, about 1611

Entombment / Rubens

Flemish, about 1612