Peter Paul Rubens Biography
Born in 1577 in Westphalia (present-day Germany) to a patrician family, who was then in temporary exile from their home of Antwerp, Peter Paul Rubens is considered one of the greatest artists of the Baroque period, and one of the few that rivaled his Italian counterparts. Following his father’s death in 1587, Rubens and his family returned to Antwerp where he acquired a classical education, and began studying fine art in 1591. Although almost all of Rubens’s early work has been lost, he was able to join the painter’s guild in 1598, and during the first years of the 17th century he moved to Italy to study the works of Renaissance for several years, and developed his own unique artistic style.
The death of Rubens’s mother brought him back to Antwerp in 1608, and although he considered returning to Italy, which he regarded as his “spiritual home,” his career became so immediately successful that he stayed in his home city. By 1609 the artist was appointed court painter to the Archduke Albert, and he subsequently completed numerous commissions which solidified not only his professional stature at the time, but also his place as one of the most famous painters in art history. Rubens masterfully employed the movement, color and drama of the high baroque style, and paid particular attention to the treatment of human flesh, using modulated color rather than shadow to compose his figures. His work was so sought after that he was able to establish a grand studio of assistants to produce a high volume of commissions that included history, genre and religious paintings. He was also skilled in tapestry design, printmaking, sculpture and even architecture.
By the time of his death in 1640, Rubens was one of the most celebrated artists of his time, described as a “prince of painters, painter of princes.” His work continues to be prized, and is held in some of the greatest museum collections in the world, including the Louvre, Paris; State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; the British Museum, London; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.