The Work of Peter Paul Rubens

Operatic painter of Grecian myths and moving religious scenes, Peter Paul Rubens’ baroque paintings are tactile and brimming with sumptuous, rippling movement.  Famous to modern viewers as an opulent portrayer of exaggerated, thunderous flesh and gigantic arses, Rubens’ style is some what out of favour and unfairly undermined as being kitch.  In truth, temporary changes in fashion do not negate Rubens’ mastery of colour, form and composition and his grasp of an instinctive, primal desire to indulge.  The Flemish painter was a scholar of humanities and and a knighted diplomat whose history paintings, allegories and opulent altarpieces of the counter-reformation were influenced by his Italian training.  Undeniably musical, unabashedly emotional, his compositions swell and rush with incredibly compelling movement.  Soft brushstrokes, vibrant colours and ostentatious poses enliven his unambiguous paintings and must have articulated the opulent surroundings, fever of renaissance ideas and religious enthusiasm of his age.  Cascading, rolling waves of bodies scramble, grope and climb over each other with classical backgrounds like stage sets.  As theatrical and animated as the paintings seem, their essential truth and humanity is in the sincerity of emotion and the incredible recognition and depiction of the fears, desires and suffering that is uniquely human.


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