Rubens, Peter Paul

Date: 1577-1640

Peter Paul Rubens started his working life as a court page for a countess. However, he quickly discovered his love of painting and switched to training as an artist. Spending eight years after completing his training travelling around Southern Europe, he learned to copy Renaissance and classical art.

Forced to return to Antwerp due to the death of his mother, in 1609 Rubens was appointed the court painter for Archduke Albert and his wife Isabella. In Antwerp, he designed and built a large studio for his pupils and assistants, who he employed to help fulfil the high demand for his work.

In 1622, he was commissioned by Maria de Medici, widow of King Henry VI of France, to decorate two galleries with scenes of the lives of the King and Queen. After years of struggle between Rubens, de Medici, and Cardinal Richelieu the project was abandoned, half completed. Deep in grief after the death of his first wife in 1626, Rubens spent months in England, where he completed several commissions for Charles I, including the roof of the new Banqueting House in Whitehall.

During the 1630s, Rubens’ focus returned to painting; he began to paint more landscapes of the areas around his country home. Considered the most influential artist of the Flemish Baroque tradition, he is best known for his prolific altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and historical paintings.

The University Art Collection holds one drawing by Peter Paul Rubens, entitled ‘Study for the Head of Marie de Medici’.