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Peter Paul Rubens, Pan and Syrinx, 1617. Oil on panel, 40 x 61 cm. Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Kassel. Photo: Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister/Ute Brunzel.

LONDON.- The Royal Academy of Arts presents the first major exhibition in the UK to examine Rubens’ influence on art history. Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne is an exploration of the artistic legacy of Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), the most influential of Flemish painters. The exhibition brings together masterpieces by Rubens and the artists who were inspired by him, during his lifetime and up until the twentieth century, including Van Dyck, Watteau, Turner and Delacroix, as well as Manet, Cézanne, Renoir, Klimt and Picasso. Rubens and His Legacy presents over 160 works, comprising paintings, drawings and prints drawn from some of the finest collections world-wide. Each work has been carefully considered for its significance to Rubens’ legacy.


Paul Cézanne, Three Bathers, c. 1875. Oil on canvas, 30.5 x 33 cm. Private Collection. Photo: Ali Elai, Camerarts

One of the most prolific and sought after artists of his day, Rubens had an international list of patrons that included members of some of the most important royal families in Europe, the aristocracy and the Church. With an in-depth knowledge of Renaissance art, Rubens combined his studies of the Italian Masters to develop his own style of lively realism and rich brushwork, creating monumental and dynamic paintings. His great versatility and immense capacity to produce work meant that his creative output encompassed every genre of painting: altarpieces, family portraits, landscapes and historical and mythological scenes. Whilst Rubens is most renowned for the depiction of his fleshy, sensuous “Rubenesque” women, the exhibition illustrates the breadth of his accomplishment and present an artist whose visual language, from composition to theme, style and colour, impacted on artists at the time and has had continued resonance for artists throughout the centuries following his death.


Sir Anthony Van Dyck, A Genoese Noblewoman and Her Son, c. 1626. Oil on canvas, 191.5 x 139.5 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Widener Collection, 1942.9.91. Photo Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

Rubens and His Legacy is being presented by six themes encompassing Poetry, Elegance, Power, Lust, Compassion and Violence. Each theme links the work of Rubens to subsequent generations of great artists; starting with his assistant Van Dyck to Boucher and Watteau in the 1700s, Delacroix, Constable, Manet and Daumier in the 1800s, to Cézanne and Picasso 300 years after Rubens’ death.


Peter Paul Rubens, ‘Tiger, Lion and Leopard Hunt’, 1616. Oil on canvas, 256 x 324.5 cm. Rennes, Musée des Beaux Arts. Photo © MBA, Rennes, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Adélaïde Beaudoin.

Where Poetry is the main theme, landscapes and bucolic scenes by Rubens such as The Garden of Love, c.1633, are displayed alongside paintings including The Harvest Wagon, c.1784 by Gainsborough, Cottage at East Bergholt, c.1833 by Constable and The Forest of Bere (Petworth), 1808 by Turner. A series of portraits are presented within the theme of Elegance, including Marchesa Maria Grimaldi and her Dwarf, c.1607 by Rubens, A Genoese Noblewoman and Her Son, c.1626 by Van Dyck and Young Woman with Dog, c.1769 by Fragonard. The section on Power comprises history paintings by Le Brun and Jordaens, including Triumph of Frederik Henry, c.1650-51, as well as works by Latour, Thornhill and Verrio. Rubens’ Venus Frigida, 1614, Cézanne’s Three Bathers, 1875 and Picasso’s Faun Uncovering a Sleeping Woman, 1936 are represented in the section on Lust, as well as works by Manet, Daumier and Renoir. A selection of prints and paintings examining religious themes including Coello’s Virgin and Child Adored by St Louis, King of France, 1665-68, The Conversion of St. Paul, 1675-82 by Murillo and Crucifixion, 1846 by Delacroix are on display in the galleries that examine the theme of Compassion. The theme of Violence brings together tumultuous hunting scenes such as The Tiger Hunt, 1616 by Rubens and Delacroix’s The Lion Hunt, 1858.


Peter Paul Rubens, The Triumph of Henri IV, 1630. Oil on panel, 49.5 x 83.5 cm. Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1942 (42.187). Photo c. 2013. Image copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource / Scala, Florence.

Dr Nico Van Hout, curator of the exhibition says, “It is no coincidence that Delacroix, Vigée-Lebrun, Reynolds and Renoir devoted fascinating discourses, journal entries and letters on the virtuosity and confidence of Rubens’ brushwork, as many artists were trained by seriously studying his altarpieces, allegories, portraits and landscapes. Each artist focused on different aspects of his oeuvre and the works in this exhibition show the great variety of this impact: they include exact copies, creative copies, pastiches and quotations to works that only echo Rubens’ style. Only the best artists were able to translate Rubens’ visual language into a personal idiom and we are delighted to bring together such a rich selection of works to showcase the ongoing strength of Rubens’ legacy throughout the past three centuries.”


Peter Paul Rubens, The Garden of Love, c. 1633. Oil on canvas, 199 x 286 cm. Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid. Photo © Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado.