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Pieter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) Flemish painter 

Belgian baroque painter Pieter Paul Rubens (in the English speaking world mostly referred to as Peter Paul) was the most celebrated northern European artist of his day. Rubens' childhood echoed the intense religious friction of the 16th century, which was to be of crucial significance in his artistic career. Dad Rubens was an ardently Calvinist Antwerp lawyer who had to flee to Siegen in Germany in 1568 to escape religious persecution. Pieter Paul was born in this Westphalian town. After his father's death in 1587 the family moved back to Antwerp, where Pieter Paul was raised a Roman Catholic by his mother and received his early training as an artist.

By the age of 21 he was a master painter. His artistic and religious views led him to Italy. Upon arriving in Venice in 1600, he fell under the spell of the bright colour and grand forms of Titian. From 1600 to 1608 Rubens was court painter to the duke of Mantua. Here he digested the lessons of the other Italian Renaissance masters.

The Flemish painter also spent a lot of time in Rome, where he created his first widely acknowledged masterworks in some altarpieces. Rubens returned to Antwerp after eight years when his mother died. With his reputation already established, he soon became the leading artistic figure in the Spanish Netherlands. By combining the realistic tradition of Flemish painting and the imaginative freedom and classical themes of Italian Renaissance painting, he fundamentally changed northern European painting.

Ripened as a painter, upon his return to Flanders Rubens executed and supervised an enormous number of works that spanned all areas of painting. His unquestionable religious perspective, along with a deep involvement in public affairs, lent Rubens' work a conservative and public cast, sharply contrasting with the private and secular paintings of his great Dutch contemporary Rembrandt. His Roman Catholic belief however never conflicted with his passion for antiquity. Venus and Mary are almost compatible in the Fleming's art.

To cope with the enormous productions, Rubens set up a studio along the lines of Italian painters' workshops, in which skilled artists executed paintings from the master's sketches. Rubens's personal contribution to the over two thousand works produced by this studio varied considerably from work to work. Equipped with exceptional energy, he would be up by 4 in the morning and could paint while dictating a letter and carrying on a conversation with a visitor, all at the same time. Among his most famous assistants were Anthony van Dyck and Frans Snijders.

Rubens was more than a painter. His involvement in society and his fluency in French, Flemish, German, Italian, Latin and Spanish led to his royal patrons Archduke Ferdinand and Infanta Isabella, Spanish viceroys of the Netherlands, giving him ambassadorial duties. Pieter Paul Rubens The Diplomat conducted peace negotiations in 1625, aimed at ending the war between the Spanish Netherlands and the Dutch Republic. He also helped arranging a peace treaty between England and Spain (1629-30). British king Charles I was so stunned with Rubens' efforts that he knighted the Flemish painter.

In the last stage of his life, Rubens turned more and more to portraits, genre scenes, and landscapes. Despite recurring strikes of arthritis, he remained an extraordinarily prolific artist throughout his last years. Rubens died in 1640.

A list of many museums with works by Rubens (thanks to artcyclopedia.com):

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