Rubens, Peter Paul

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

The Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens was one of the greatest artists of northern Europe. He was also an honored scholar and a respected diplomat.

Rubens was born on June 28, 1577, in Siegen, Germany. After his father died, his mother returned with her family to her native Antwerp in Flanders (now part of Belgium). Rubens was apprenticed at the age of 14 to an artist in the city. From 1600 until 1608, he lived in Italy as court painter to the Duke of Mantua. There he fell under the influence of such Italian masters as Titian, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio.

On his return to Antwerp in 1608, Rubens was appointed court painter to the Spanish governor of Flanders. In 1609, he married Isabella Brant.

Rubens was in great demand by the leading rulers of Europe. He decorated churches and palaces and painted countless portraits, landscapes, and events in classical mythology. He had to employ many assistants to complete his numerous commissions. Rubens was known above all for the brilliant color of his works. Even today we admire the robust, pink-cheeked beauty of the women he painted.

After his wife died in 1626, Rubens entered the diplomatic service. He went on several missions to Holland and England. On his return to Antwerp in 1630, Rubens married the young and beautiful Hélène Fourment--the subject of many of his later and gentler paintings. He died in Antwerp on May 30, 1640, at the height of his popularity.

Reviewed by Ariane Ruskin Batterberry
Author, The Pantheon Story of Art for Young People

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