Ringling Museum opens Peter Paul Rubens. Impressions of a Master

The Ringling Museum presents Peter Paul Rubens: Impressions of a Master, an exhibition, in partnership with the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, on view from Feb. 17, 2012 to June 3, 2012 in the Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing.

The Flight of Lot and His Family from-Sodom by Peter Paul Rubens (1613-15). Oil on canvas.From the Ringling Museum collection

The exhibition features more than 100 magnificent paintings by and prints after Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), that together celebrate the legacy of one of the greatest artists of all time. The show runs from Feb. 17, 2012 to June 3, 2012 in the Ringling Museum of Art’s Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Ringling will host noted Rubens scholars for a two day symposium on the artist’s Triumph of the Eucharist Series tapestry series, from March 30-31, 2012. Five large-scale canvases related to the series grace the Ringling’s Rubens Galleries and are highlights of the Museum’s collection.

“Peter Paul Rubens’s canvases depicting the Triumph of the Eucharist series are the crown jewels and anchors of the Ringling Museum’s collection. For sheer spectacle, the Ringling’s Rubens Galleries are unrivalled in any museum in America,” said Steven High, executive director of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. “Rubens created for himself an illustrious career and is truly one of art history’s giants. This exhibition brings his distinctive style to the fore, as well as revealing the breadth of his artistic productions, from the paintings that made him famous to the prints that made his work available to a wide and international public.”

Renowned for his virtuoso handling of oil paint, energetic compositions, and dramatic, triumphal, and often sensual style, Rubens was also an international diplomat, a shrewd businessman, a scholar and collector, a friend to rulers and thinkers, and the director of a large workshop. Europe’s kings and princes prized his works, which included altarpieces and other religious pictures, portraits, hunt and mythological scenes, and monumental decorative programs in oil paint and in tapestry. At the height of his career, Rubens undertook a campaign to reproduce and disseminate his paintings, drawings, and tapestry designs in printed format.

Peter Paul Rubens: Impressions of a Master will be the Ringling’s first ever exhibition devoted to the work of its preeminent artist. The exhibition also invites visitors to discover a little-known aspect of Rubens’s artistic practice – his printmaking. Rubens was not simply an artist – with the help of his workshop and his collaborators, including his printmakers, he created a global “brand,” a particular style and a hallmark of quality valued the world over.

Rubens realized that through prints, his most famous compositions could be enjoyed by an international public, by those who could not afford his paintings or travel to see his magnificent schemes. Dissatisfied with the earlier, frequently unauthorized reproductions of his work, Rubens rather unusually obtained legal authority to copyright his images, engaging, it would seem, with the very same intellectual property issues that beset artists today. Yet unlike Dürer, Rembrandt, or Goya, Rubens did not make his own prints, but rather hired printmakers to translate his compositions into authorized reproductive engravings and woodcuts and supervised them vigorously. He avoided artists who tried to impose their own ideas and styles on the reproductions, encouraging printmakers to imitate his painterly effects.

At the show’s core are around forty magnificent prints after compositions by Rubens from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, repository of the largest group of prints after Rubens in the world. These are joined by several paintings by and prints after Rubens from the Ringling collection. While the paintings are well-known favorites to regular Ringling visitors, the prints have rarely, if ever, been on view.

The exhibition gives audiences a chance to compare and understand how painted compositions were transformed into printed ones, pairing paintings from the Ringling with prints made after them, from the collections of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. For example, Rubens’s painting depicting the Flight of Lot and His Family from Sodom from the Ringling collection is displayed alongside a print made after it by Lucas Vorsterman, one of the printmakers Rubens employed to make authorized reproductions of his images. The exhibition also includes a didactic installation by Bradenton-based artist Joe Loccisano to help visualize the artists’ process from painting to print. The exercise illustrates the distinctive differences between forms of print media, including engraving, etching and woodcuts.

On March 30-31, 2012, the Rubens symposium in the Johnson-Blalock Education Center features papers by Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. (National Gallery of Art, Washington); Marjorie Wieseman (National Gallery, London); Anne T. Woollett (J. Paul Getty Museum); Fiona Healy (Independent Scholar); Koenraad Brosens (University of Leuven); Ana García Sanz (Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, Patrimonio Nacional); Susan Merriam (Bard College); Lisa Rosenthal (University of Illinois); and Dr. Virginia Brilliant (The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art).

Additional programming includes the Ringling’s Art of Food program and its presentation of A Baroque Banquet. Patrons can sample what it would be like to enjoy the fabulous fare that Rubens would have lavished guests with at his Antwerp home. A stroll of the exhibition with museum staff is followed by dinner at Treviso Restaurant, April 24, 2012. Tickets are $85 for non-members; $70 for members. Author and historian Mark Lamster presents Peter Paul Rubens and the Art of Diplomacy during a ViewPoint lecture, April 28, 2012 in the Historic Asolo Theater. Tickets are $10 for non-members; complimentary for Ringling Members at the Contributor (Supporting) Level and above; $5 for all other Ringling Members and Florida College students and faculty with valid school ID.

Dr. Brilliant is also the author of Triumph & Taste: Peter Paul Rubens at The Ringling Museum of Art, a catalogue produced by Scala Publishing and available in the Museum Store for $19.99. It includes new research and insights into the paintings by Rubens in the Ringling collection. Additional reading materials are available in the Ringling Museum of Art Library. The library owns one of the largest collections of books about Rubens in the U.S.

Advance tickets are available by calling 941.358.3180. Visit Ringling.org for more information.

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