Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) was a gutsy entrepreneur, a diplomat, a city-builder and an ingenious self-promoter. He’s also one of most the renowned painters in Western art – widely recognized for his dynamic, even cinematic, style.
Opening October 12, 2019, Early Rubens is a revealing exhibition of works the Flemish painter master produced between 1609 and 1621, a crucial time that marks Rubens’s rise to prominence on the world stage. Some of Rubens’s most remarkable, ambitious and large-scale oil paintings and works on paper will be featured in the exhibition – many of which have never been seen before in North America.
This time period was significant both for Rubens’s development as an artist and for Antwerp’s revitalization. Rubens’ return to his birthplace of Antwerp in 1608, after studying in Italy for eight years, coincided with a period of relative peace for the war-torn city. Rubens’s homecoming was marked by almost immediate professional success – appointed court painter to the Archduke of Austria, in less than two years he built an active studio employing numerous students and artisans and established himself as the most famous painter in Western Europe.
Two important works from the AGO Collection are featured in the exhibition: Rubens’s powerful The Massacre of the Innocents, and his largest and most realized oil sketch, The Raising of the Cross, from 1638. “The Massacre of the Innocents is a centrepiece of the AGO Collection and this exhibition,” says Dr. Sasha Suda, AGO Curator of European Art. “The Massacre of the Innocents not only highlights Rubens’s achievement as a painter, it provides powerful insight into the mindset of the citizens of Antwerp in 1610, giving expression to their collective trauma. I’m excited for our visitors to see it in a new way, and to understand 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.