Exhibition | Rubens and His Legacy

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on November 3, 2014


François Boucher, Pan and Syrinx, 1759
(London: National Gallery)

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Press packet from BOZAR:

Sensation and Sensuality: Rubens and His Legacy
BOZAR (Centre for Fine Arts), Brussels, 25 September 2014 — 4 January 2015
Royal Academy of Arts, London, 24 January — 10 April 2015

Peter Paul Rubens was one of the most innovative painters in the history of art. His impact on subsequent generations has been immense. For the first time, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA), the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and BOZAR in Brussels have joined forces to look at Rubens as a role model. The exhibition Sensation and Sensuality: Rubens and his Legacy brings together some 160 works, including some iconic paintings by Rubens himself and, more particularly, works by his artistic heirs.

It is a paradox that Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) is both inimitable and has served, for four centuries now, as the great model for painters such as Rembrandt, Murillo, Watteau, Fragonard, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Delacroix, Cézanne, Renoir, Kokoschka, and many others, often far beyond the frontiers of Europe. Even in the work of Picasso, we encounter his visual language. The international exhibition Sensation and Sensuality: Rubens and His Legacy looks at this phenomenon and brings works by these celebrated artists to the world-renowned Flemish master’s homeland.

Sensational and Sensual

(c) Gainsborough's House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Thomas Gainsborough, after Rubens, The Descent from the Cross, 1766–69 (Sudbury: Gainsborough’s House)

Many Rubens works are sensational: loud, forceful, and sometimes violent, created in the service of Catholic propaganda and of absolutist rulers. With his almost cinematographic depiction of aggression, fighting, and barbaric scenes, Rubens could be called the Quentin Tarantino of his time. But he is also a sensual painter in his informal family portraits, landscapes and pastoral scenes, peasant dances and gardens of love, in which he was a precursor of Rococo, Romanticism, and Impressionism. Rubens was so many-sided that he appealed to artists of every nationality. Their interest was often selective. Spaniards preferred his religious works. The English were inspired by his portraits and landscapes. French painters were attracted, above all, by the eroticism and poetry in his work. German and Austrian artists admired his vitality and vigour. A great many talented artists were captivated by his use of composition, colour, and technique and developed flourishing careers by following his example. After meeting Rubens, Velázquez began to paint in a different way;
following his counsel, he used a lighter undercoat.

160 Works of Art, 6 Themes

The Sensation and Sensuality exhibition presents more than 160 works of art and takes the visitor through six fascinating themes that explore different aspects of life and of the painter’s art: violence, power, lust, compassion, elegance, and poetry. Each of these chapters demonstrates the links between masterpieces by Rubens and the work of artists who came after him. The Tiger Hunt from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes hangs alongside the Delacroix Lion Hunt from Stockholm and the voluptuous Pan and Syrinx from the Gemäldegalerie in Kassel alongside Boucher’s work of the same name from the National Gallery in London; the portrait of Marchese Maria Grimaldi and Her Dwarf from Kingston Lacy is juxtaposed with A Genoese Noblewoman and Her Son from Washington, by Rubens’s famous pupil van Dyck; and Manet’s Rubens pastiche Fishing from the Metropolitan Museum in New York can be seen alongside The Bacchanalia on Andros by Rubens, from the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.

The 20 paintings, 6 oil sketches, 8 drawings, and 10 prints by Rubens himself are presented in a dialogue with works by his artistic heirs, including Böcklin, Carpeaux, Constable, Corinth, Coypel, Daumier, Delacroix, Fragonard, Gainsborough, Géricault, Jordaens, Klimt, Kokoschka, Le Brun, Makart, Murillo, Picasso, Rembrandt, Renoir, Reynolds, Sandrart, Turner, Watteau, and others.

Prestigious Loans

Exceptionally, one of the jewels of the Prado collection in Madrid, Rubens’s Garden of Love, will travel to Brussels, where it will be brought together with preparatory sketches from the Amsterdam Museum and two drawings that Rubens made of his painting for a superb print (Metropolitan Museum, New York). Bringing these pieces together allows us to see how this famous composition took shape, from idea to reproduction. As well as those already mentioned, major foreign lending institutions contributing include Tate Britain (London), the Neue Pinakothek (Munich), the Nasjonalgalleriet (Oslo), Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and a number of private collections.

International Cooperation

Sensation and Sensuality is an exhibition organised by the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA), the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and BOZAR (Centre for Fine Arts), Brussels. After the show at the Centre for Fine Arts Brussels the exhibition will travel to the Royal Academy of Arts in London (24.01 – 10.04.2015)

Multidisciplinary Programme

This autumn, BOZAR pays homage to Rubens and shows how the Antwerp master has also inspired artists in other artistic disciplines.

BOZAR MUSIC is presenting a concert series, The Musicall Humors of Rubens, with music of the painter’s time; the highlight will be the concert on 6 December 2014, The Ear of Rubens, performed by the Huelgas Ensemble. Besides, BOZAR MUSIC and Ricercar (Outhere) present a CD with examples of the major musical genres that Rubens would have heard during his travels in Europe.

BOZAR LITERATURE has invited six writers—David Bosch, Annemarie Estor, Lydia Flem, Peter Holvoet-Hanssen, Pjeroo Roobjee, and Jean-Philippe Toussaint—to draw inspiration from a work by Rubens: you can read the results in the visitor’s guide or listen to them on a videoguide.

BOZAR CINEMA, moreover, is screening the art film that Henri Storck made about Rubens in 1948. There will also be two multimedia installations on show during the BOZAR NIGHT and the BEAF: Ingrid Van Wantoch Rekowski will present her video installation Rubens-Metamorfoses during the BOZAR NIGHT (10 November 2014); during the BEAF (25–27 September 2014), the video artist Quayola will show his installation Strata #4, a—literally—penetrating look at the great altarpieces of Rubens and van Dyck via high-resolution images.

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Tim Barringer, Arturo Galansino, Gerlinde Gruber, and Nico van Hout, David Howarth, and Alexis Merle du Bourg, Rubens and His Legacy (London: Royal Academy Publications, 2014), 352 pages, ISBN: 978-1907533778, $75.

9781907533778_p0_v1_s600Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) is undoubtedly the most influen­tial of all Flemish painters. Himself indebted to Titian, Rubens became a role model to Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and Velázquez, and influenced artists well beyond his time, including figures such as Cézanne, Picasso, Bacon, and Freud. This sumptuous new volume explores Rubens’s legacy thematically, through a series of sections devoted to violence, power, lust, compassion, elegance, and poetry. Each section will link artists across the centuries in their references to Rubens, from Van Dyck and Watteau to Manet, Daumier, Renoir, and Van Gogh, as well as Gainsborough, Constable, and Turner.

Tim Barringer is Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art at Yale University. Arturo Galansino is curator at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Gerlinde Gruber is curator for Flemish Baroque paintings at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Nico van Hout is a member of the collections research team at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp. David Howarth is professor of history of art at the University of Edinburgh. Alexis Merle du Bourg is an art historian and a Rubens specialist.

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