Friday, January 21, 2011

Flemish Painting in the 17th Century

The name of Peter Paul Rubens dominates Flemish painting of the 17th century. Having trained in Antwerp, and learned much from studying other artists' works during his time in Italy (1600-08), Rubens proved himself a master of all genres of painting, including religious, mythological, and allegorical works, portraits, and landscapes. He drew designs for sculptures and tapestries, including The History of Decius Mus, (I616-I8), for the Genoese nobleman Nicolo Pallavicini, and was also interested in architecture, as well as stimulating and coordinating the activities of a wide circle of fellow artists. Many worked alongside him in his studio, collaborating with him on ambitious works commissioned by local and foreign patrons, such as those for the ceiling of the Jesuit church of St Ignatius in Antwerp (1620-25). Rubens was a rich, cultured artist, with patrician and royal patrons all over Europe. He painted the allegorical cycle of the life of Marie de Medicis for the gallery in the Palais du Luxembourg (1621-35, now in the Musee du Louvre); the painted ceiling in the banqueting hall in the Palace of Whitehall London (1629-34); and a series of paintings inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses for the Torre della Parada, a royal hunting lodge near Madrid (1636-38).
As a young man Anthony van Dyck worked with Rubens. After his first visit to London in 1620 to the court of King James I, van Dyck went to Italy (1621-27). staying in Genoa for a considerable time and visiting Venice, Rome, and Palermo. He returned to England in 1632, after which he concentrated mainly on portrait painting, remaining there as court painter to King Charles I for the rest of his life, with the exception of a visit to his homeland in 1634. The work that he produced influenced other artists well into the 18th century. In contrast to van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) achieved fame throughout Europe without leaving his native Antwerp. Many Flemish artists specialized in the production of cabinet pictures for private collectors, and during the early part of the century in Antwerp this specialization was the virtual monopoly of the Francken family. Their paintings are characterized by a minute attention to detail and a skilful handling of paint, enlivened by elegant Mannerist touches. Genre scenes were given new vigour in the work of Adriaen Brouwer (c. 1605-38), who was a pupil of Frans Hals in Haarlem, while Frans Snyders (1579—1657) was an outstanding painter who specialized in the portrayal of animals and in landscapes. Both he and his brother-in-law Paul de Vos (c. 1596-1678) worked with Rubens. Another prolific artist based in Antwerp was Jan Fyt (1611-61), who brought new refinements to the handling of paint. Abraham Brueghel (1631-97), the last of the famous dynasty of Flemish painters, moved to Italy in 1659 where he settled first in Rome and then in Naples. During his time in Italy, he produced flower paintings with a notable ease of execution and of an attractive composition and use of colour.

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