Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) was a star during his lifetime, and he remains a star today. His name is synonymous with an entire period in art history, the Baroque, but contemporary art too cannot ignore him. Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna has on display the most emblematic large scale paintings of Rubens until January 21, 2018.
The extraordinary œuvre of this artistic genius comprises large-scale altarpieces more dynamic and full of coloristic punch than anything produced by his contemporaries, as well as sensual nudes and dramatic compositions. But Rubens is also renowned for his intimate and private paintings, such as his celebrated “The Fur” now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna; it is the artist’s declaration of his love for his beautiful second wife, Hélène Fourment.
And “Stormy Landscape with Philemon and Baucis”, a painting Rubens probably began because he became interested in the problems of depicting landscape and which he continued to work on throughout his life, is a magnificent and vibrant composition.
This special exhibition invites visitors to see these and other masterpieces now in Vienna in the context of Rubens’ preparatory drawings, oil sketches, panel paintings and canvases.
The works on show – among them around seventy loans from the world’s foremost collections such as the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Prado in Madrid or the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. – have been carefully selected to create juxtapositions and confrontations that document how Rubens worked, how he created his vivid, carefully contrived artworks.
The show thus focuses on the most fascinating aspect of Rubens’ art: his critical analysis and use of external sources and ideas. With the help of selected examples the exhibition illustrates how Rubens was inspired by other artists, by both contemporary and Renaissance compositions. Throughout his life he also entered into a creative dialogue with ancient and Renaissance sculpture.