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.