Peter Paul Rubens (also Pieter Pauwel Rubens or latinized Petrus Paulus Rubens, born June 28, 1577 in Siegen, † May 30, 1640 in Antwerp) was a painter of Flemish origin. He was one of the most famous baroque painters and diplomat of the Spanish-Habsburg crown. Peter Paul Rubens lived during the Dutch Golden Age. He is considered to be the most influential artist in the Flemish baroque tradition. Rubens' highly charged compositions relate to scholarly aspects of classical and Christian history. His unique and hugely popular Baroque style emphasized the movement, color, and sensuality that followed the immediate, dramatic artistic style promoted in the Counter Reformation. Rubens was a painter who made altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and historical paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. He was also a prolific designer of cartoons for the Flemish tapestry workshops and the Frontispiece for the publishers in Antwerp.
Rubens not only ran a large workshop in Antwerp that produced paintings popular with nobles and art collectors throughout Europe, but he was also a classically trained humanist scholar and diplomat who was tutored by both Philip IV of Spain and Charles I and knighted by England. Rubens was a prolific artist. The catalog of his works by Michael Jaffé contains 1,403 works, apart from many copies made in his workshop.
His commissioned works were mainly history paintings that included religious and mythological subjects as well as hunting scenes. He painted portraits, mainly of friends, and self-portraits, and later in life he painted several landscapes. Rubens designed tapestries and prints as well as his own house. He also supervised the short-lived decorations of the Austrian Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand's royal entry into Antwerp in 1635, and he wrote a book of illustrations of the palaces in Genoa, published in 1622 as Palazzi di Genova. The book helped spread the Genoese palace style throughout northern Europe. Rubens was an avid art collector and owned one of the largest collections of art and books in Antwerp. He was also an art dealer and is known to have sold a significant number of works of art to George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham.
He was one of the last great artists to consistently use wooden panels as a support medium, even for very large works, but he also used canvases, especially when works had to be shipped long distances. For altarpieces, he sometimes painted on slate to reduce reflection problems.
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60 | The Four Continents – The Four Rivers of Paradise (Die vier Kontinente – Die vier Flüsse des Paradieses), 1615
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