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Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Isabella Brant

Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Isabella Brant, c. 1620–1625. Oil on wood, framed: 83 x 73.5 x 9 cm; unframed: 53 x 46 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1947.207.

Early Rubens

October 12, 2019 – January 5, 2020

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EXHIBITION OVERVIEW 

The AGO is thrilled to showcase Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) in a new exhibition featuring the North American debut of some of his most ambitious works. Rubens is one of the most revered painters in Western art – widely recognized for his riveting, dynamic and even cinematic style, known as the Baroque.

Early Rubens includes such masterpieces as The Head of Medusa (from The Moravian Gallery, Brno, Czech Republic) and The Boar Hunt (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille), complementing treasures from the AGO Collection: The Massacre of the Innocents and his most finished oil sketch, The Raising of the Cross.

The exhibition highlights works the Flemish master produced between 1609 and 1621 – a crucial time that was the artist’s most innovative and inspired. This period was significant for the evolution of Rubens’s style and for the revitalization of Antwerp, Belgium – his hometown and a city once celebrated as the “gem of Belgium.” His return to Antwerp in 1608, after studying in Italy for eight years, coincided with a period of relative peace for the war-torn city. His invaluable connections with the city’s elites fuelled his meteoric rise to fame. He launched a renowned studio that established his distinctive style and made him a driving force behind the city’s renewal.

One of the most famous and valuable paintings in the AGO Collection, The Massacre of the Innocents underscores Rubens’s achievement as a painter and provides powerful insight into the mindset of the citizens of Antwerp in 1610, giving expression to their collective trauma instigated by religious warfare. Visitors will see this work in a new way and discover the incredibly important place it holds in Rubens’s development.

 

Early Rubens is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

 


ABOUT THE ARTIST

Peter Paul Rubens was born in 1577 in Siegen, Westphalia. He was a tireless entrepreneur, a skillful diplomat and an ingenious self-promoter. He is one of the most famous painters in Western art, widely recognized and admired for his dramatic style and a leading figure of the Baroque era – a period typified by the most emotionally intense and sensual art, music and sculpture. As a young man, he took his formative training in Antwerp but travelled to Italy and Spain on an eight-year journey that proved to be transformational. While abroad, he immersed himself in intensive study of ancient sculpture and masterpieces by the Renaissance and Baroque masters he admired. Through his theatrical and bold style, his work would soon combine what he had learned on his trip with his northern European heritage. Rubens very quickly established himself as one of the most pre-eminent painters in Antwerp. Equally engaged as a leading figure in the city’s intellectual and cultural life, Rubens strategically positioned himself to gain wider international celebrity in the following decades.


ARTWORKS FROM THE EXHIBITION

rubens' massacre of the innocents

Peter Paul Rubens, The Massacre of the Innocents, c. 1610. Oil on panel, 142 x 183 x 1.9 cm. The Thomson Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario. © 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario

Early Rubens
Rubens' daniel in the lion's den

Peter Paul Rubens, Daniel in the Lions’ Den, c. 1614 – 1616. Oil on canvas, Overall: 224.2 x 330.5 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 1965.13.1. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

Rubens daniel in the lion's den
Rubens' raising of the cross

Peter Paul Rubens, The Raising of the Cross, c. 1638. Oil on paper, later mounted on canvas, 72.1 x 132.7 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Purchase, 1928. Photo: Craig Boyko. © 2017 Art Gallery of Ontario.

Rubens raising of the cross slide
rubens' the tribute money

Peter Paul Rubens, The Tribute Money, c. 1612. Oil on panel, 144.1 x 189.9 cm. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, museum purchase, M.H. de Young Art Trust Fund, 44.11. Image Courtesy the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Rubens tribute money slide
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