When Peter Paul Rubens came back to Antwerp—where he would go on to establish one of the most prolific artistic workshops of all time—in 1608, after eight years in Italy, he brought back the knowledge and influence of antique works and painters like Caravaggio. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) have teamed up to mount Early Rubens, which opened last weekend at FAMSF’s Legion of Honor (until 8 September; it travels to Toronto in October). It is the first exhibition to look at Rubens’s formative post-Italy years from 1609-21, corresponding to the Twelve Years’ Truce, a halt to decades of hostilities between the Habsburgs and the Dutch Republic. The port city, then part of the Spanish Netherlands, had been shattered by war and religious conflict, including the Iconoclastic Furies that destroyed art in churches—making the time ripe for new commissions by the Catholic Church, which was re-affirming its power. The show, co-organised by Kirk Nickel of FAMSF and Sasha Suda of the AGO, includes around 30 paintings and 20 works on paper from the two museums and lenders in Europe and the Americas.





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