Peter Paul Rubens

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The author of numerous books on Dutch art, Christopher White has drawn together here his many years of experience as an art historian as well as much of the work done by other scholars of Rubens’ life and work. The result is a large, beautiful, and informative book that is the most significant and thorough ever to appear on Rubens.

While much of the biographical text is drawn from White’s earlier RUBENS AND HIS WORLD, this present volume goes beyond the previous study insofar as here there is interwoven a thoroughly illustrated, analytical discussion of the numerous artistic influences which Rubens--always quite pragmatically-- “absorbed into his own personal language.” These influences were in the form of sculptures, etchings, drawings, or paintings by other artists, from ancients to masters of the High Renaissance to his seventeenth century contemporaries. Especially fascinating in this regard is the chapter concerning Rubens’ eight years of practical study in Italy, beginning in 1600 when he was twenty-three years old. Naturally, where artistic derivation is an issue among scholars, there will be a diversity of opinions and hypotheses, and so there is in the critical literature on Rubens. Nevertheless, White generally avoids polemics by avoiding speculation; where he discusses derivations, he provides uncontestable illustrations of this assertions.

Rubens was a painter, printmaker, sculptor, architect, and scholar of classical art and literature; he was also a well-traveled intimate of many rulers of the major European countries and frequently engaged in politics and diplomacy. A study of Rubens’ life and art should be, then, also a study of the spirit and history of his era. PETER PAUL RUBENS: MAN AND ARTIST is such a study; indeed, White makes it quite clear that Rubens was--perhaps “more than any other artist"--the “uomo universale of his epoch.”