LOS ANGELES – Artist Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) possessed the remarkable ability to synthesize the rich artistic tradition of his native Flanders with the art he saw in Italy. Drawings of landscapes, genre scenes, figural compositions, and religious subjects by Rubens and his most talented predecessors, collaborators, and followers shed light on the dynamic artistic tradition from which he emerged and the grand unifying vision he achieved. Featuring drawings from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection, Drawing in the Age of Rubens, on view October 14, 2014–January 11, 2015 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center attests to the flourishing artistic culture in the Southern Netherlands from the 16th to 17th century.
“This exhibition of works from the Museum’s permanent collection is the perfect complement to our major loan exhibition of Rubens’s modelli and tapestries from Spain. The most prolific of artists, Rubens was also one of the finest and most influential draftsmen of his age,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “This exhibition provides an opportunity to showcase our important collection of works by Rubens, as well as his students, contemporaries and instructors, thus illustrating his critical preeminent role in almost every aspect of Flemish Baroque art.”
Working in Antwerp a generation before Rubens, Crispijn van den Broeck looked to the compositions of other Flemish artists who had been exposed to Italian renderings of the human form. Van den Broeck’s drawings such as Creation of Adam (1575) and Creation of Eve (1575) demonstrate his interpretation of the idealized musculature of Italian nudes. Rubens went a step further, using an extensive visit to Italy from 1600 to 1608 to incorporate compositional elements of well-known 16th and 17th-century Italian masters into his own Flemish visual vocabulary. His Three Groups of Apostles in a Last Supper conveys how he sought to increase the emotional intensity of his Italian models by making the gestures more exaggerated.
Exaggerated gestures were also common in drawings of religious subjects. The Southern Netherlands was governed by the Spanish Habsburgs, and Catholicism and loyalty to the Spanish crown were enforced. The active role Rubens played in glorifying the Catholic faith is reflected in his treatment of religious subjects featured in the exhibition. In The Assumption of the Virgin (about 1624), Rubens’s vibrant application of ink, gouache, and oil paint over Paulus Pontius’s black chalk underdrawing serves to embellish the sense of commotion as the Virgin is carried by angels toward the outstretched arms of her son. Featuring Rubens’s exuberant style, the drawing conveys the celebration of the Virgin Mary by the Catholic church in the 1600s.
Art featuring peasant life was also popular in Antwerp during the 16th and 17th centuries, and Rubens rendered scenes that idealized local farming tradition and life on the land. His Man Threshing Beside a Wagon, Farm Buildings Behind (1615–17) gives a rustic farm wagon a heroic quality with its jolting perspective. Used as a preparatory drawing for a series of tapestries that illustrated moral adages, Jacob Jordaens’s A Merry Company (about 1644) features a bawdy scene of drinking and cavorting that is made all the more raucous by the artist’s loose application of colorful washes.
The exhibition features a number of landscapes, another common Flemish subject. Tobias Verhaecht, the first of Rubens’s three teachers, specialized in landscapes, and An Extensive Estuary Landscape with the Story of Mercury and Herse (about 1610) is a fantastical scene that recalls the landscapes of Verhaecht’s 16th-century predecessor Pieter Brueghel the Elder. Forest Road at Evening (about 1640–5) by Lucas van Uden also demonstrates the Flemish mastery of landscape, as he makes references to Rubens’s glorious sunsets and panoramic views.
In 1612, Rubens began to design book illustrations for the renowned Plantin-Moretus publishing firm in Antwerp. Two of these illustrations are also on view in the exhibition, as well as illustrations by other artists including Crispijn van den Broeck and Anthony van Dyck.
Drawing in the Age of Rubens is on view October 14, 2014-January 11, 2015 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition is curated by Stephanie Schrader, curator of drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition complements Spectacular Rubens: The Triumph of the Eucharist, on view in the Exhibitions Pavilion at the Getty Center October 14, 2014–January 11, 2015.
Top Left: The Adoration of the Shepherds, about 1613 – 1614. Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577 - 1640). Pen and brown ink and brown wash, white gouache heightening, incised for transfer. 11 x 7 1/8 in. 86.GA.592. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
Top Right: The Assumption of the Virgin, about 1624. Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577 - 1640) and Paulus Pontius (Flemish, 1603 - 1658). Black chalk, touches of red chalk, pen and brown ink, and brown and gray wash, heightened with white and gray gouache and oil paint; incised for transfer. 25 7/8 x 16 15/16 in. No. 98.GG.14. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
Bottom: A Merry Company, about 1644. Jacob Jordaens (Flemish, 1593 - 1678). Watercolor over black chalk, heightened with white gouache. 8 5/8 x 9 3/8 in. No. 2000.59. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
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