Peter Paul Rubens was the most influential Baroque artist in Northern Europe. His sensual paintings of full-bodied women gave rise to the term Rubenesque.
Rubens painted many extravagant portraits of European royalty. One critic called him a "prince of painters and painter of princes". But he also painted his violent, audience-gripping war paintings, which critiqued European politics. Rubens also pursued his political interests as a diplomat, working for the Spanish. In the late 1620s, he brokered a treaty between Spain and England. During this time Rubens befriended the great Spanish artist, Diego Velazquez.
Rubens married twice. His first wife, Isabella Brant, was a frequent subject of his paintings. She had three children before she died. Rubens was 53 when he married his second wife, 16-year-old Helene Fourment. Together they had another five children. Helene was extremely beautiful and her buxom figure inspired many paintings including versions of The Judgement of Paris where she appears as Venus, Minerva and Juno.
His only surviving ceiling painting still in its original setting can be seen at the Banqueting House in London. It was one of the last things that King Charles I saw before he was executed outside the front door.
Rubens' most important works include Massacre Of The Innocents, The Horrors Of War and Venus And Adonis.
Thumbnail credit: Peter Paul Rubens (after), Self Portrait (detail), 18th C, oil on panel, National Trust