Rubens revelation

Review of Rubens and His Legacy Exhibition at the Royal Academy


Whether it was the brilliance of the colours or the exquisite realism of the clothes in the scene of courtship and love in The Garden of Love (1635); the sheer dynamism and scale bringing the predators to life in the visceral violence of the hunting scene Tiger, Lion and Leopard Hunt (1617), or the way the texture and complexion of the human skin are so beautifully and evocatively captured in the Venus Frigida (1614), it was very clear to see why Peter Paul Rubens was called ‘The Prince of Painters’ and has an enduring influence today. 

We were visiting the Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyke to Cezanne exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, organised by Events Manager Lisbeth Rune in mid-March, writes Club member Madeleine Brewster. 

An excellent and wide-ranging private lecture at the Club by Anne Haworth prior to our visit introduced the six themes of the exhibition around which his legacy was organised – namely poetry, elegance, power, compassion, violence and lust. For each, the key works of art and examples of Rubens’ influence were described, enabling us to concentrate on the art works whilst in the galleries.

The exhibition helped us to not only re-engage with Rubens and his greatest works with his confident, expressive brush strokes, but also with his oil studies and drawings, where we were able to gain a close insight into his artistic process and techniques.

The final room, curated by Jenny Saville RA, assessed Rubens’ influence on modern and contemporary artists such as Picasso, Francis Bacon, and Lucien Freud.

It was another excellent and highly recommended, programme of lunch, lecture and exhibition visit, organised by Lisbeth. Thank you.

Madeleine Brewster