Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pieter Paul Rubens (June 28, 1577 – May 30, 1640)

Yesterday, I observed the death of a genius - Michael Jackson, today I want to honor the birth of another - Pieter Paul Rubens (June 28, 1577 – May 30, 1640), whose name was employed by some art historians to describe the epoch he belonged to - the Age of Rubens.

Rubens was introduced to me early on, along with other old masters, such as da Vinci, Titian and Rembrandt, primarily through well-produced large format calendars. Those were the only chances I had to behold decent reproductions of seminal western artworks.

Many years later, not only have I accumulated many prints and books featuring those artworks, but I also had many opportunities to view these miracles with my naked eyes.

His staggering series - The Marie de' Medici Cycle, a series of twenty-four paintings commissioned by Marie de' Medici, wife of Henry IV of France, with twenty-one of the paintings depict Marie's own struggles and triumphs in life and the remaining three are portraits of herself and her parents, occupied a gigantic hall in the Louvre. They were such Herculean works that it took monumental concentration and Stamina to view the entire cycle in one go. Every time I went back to the Louvre, I would seek them out to admired and contemplate. This series is particularly fascinating since the life and achievement of the heroine was rather pallid.

In a large cathedral in Antwerp, I had seen his great Passion altar pieces, which somehow survived the Iconoclasm. Even a non-religious person as I, was deeply moved by his stunning composition and execution. Yet, since most of his work were only sketched by him, and subsequently executed by many assistants and apprentices, his cartoons for such paintings and tapestries were even more valued by many, including me, who appreciate the lucidity of these supposedly rough and unfinished works.

He was a successful diplomat and shrewd businessman and his villa - Rubenshuis in Antwerpen was a happy testament that financial success could be avail to a true great artist, however rarely.

On his birthday, 28 June, I remember the titan of the past.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Alisha:

    I just saw your comments today, more than half year later after your post. Thank you for the comments and I'm equally impressed by Than you!

    Matthew Felix Sun