Peter Paul Rubens painted with blood
According to curator Nico Van Hout, Rubens was the Quentin Tarantino of his time. Just like the controversial, but genius director and his nouvelle-violence style, Rubens cultivated violence in his early work. He specialised in horror scenes with a moral. The painter worked in a very cinematographic way and was a master of colour, composition and painting techniques. His characters look lifelike, and the skin of his figures bloodied.
The moral of the story is captured in one image
"Rubens paints with blood," claimed one of his contemporaries. Rubens did not use real blood, of course, but he created an unseen realism in his work. The expressions of pain, fear, pleasure, are all realistic. The muscles and movements are correct... Like no-one else, Rubens was able to capture the moral of the story in a single image.
Altarpieces in the cathedral
A work by Rubens is best admired at one of the places for which he painted it. These are often Antwerp monuments. For Rubens, a painting was only part of the total experience of the story and he occupied himself with the full staging. He was very aware that his paintings would best come into their own if the spaces in which they were located were tailored to the drama of his work.
So be sure to visit the following monuments:
A number of paintings by Rubens are located in Antwerp Cathedral. However, this beautiful gothic building was probably not Rubens' favourite place. He regarded Gothic as a passing style, which he was keen to see leave Antwerp as soon as possible and he idolised classical architecture. Rubens truly was a child of his time.
The most beautiful example of a cinematic Baroque setting can be found in the Sint-Carolus Borromeus Church on the Consciencepleintje in Antwerp. It's a Baroque ballroom, which he supplied with both paintings and sculptures. There were once more than 40 works here (including ceiling paintings) by the painter, but most were lost in a fire. Fortunately, the altar piece "The return of the Holy Family" can once again be admired here. The church also contains a sophisticated pulley system that allows the various altar pieces to be alternately viewed. The scenes were essentially adapted to the religious message being shared at the time. Three times a year, on Ash Wednesday, Easter Monday and August 14, they are still changed over during popular events – welcome to the cinema of the 17th century!
One of the hidden gems is St. Paul's Church. It is a visual treat: the beautiful Baroque altars, the sublime furniture, the important organ, more than 200 sculptures and more than 50 paintings, with a suite of 15 works by Jordaens, Rubens, Teniers, Van Balen, and van Dyck. What even many Antwerpers do not know is that the church has a calvary garden, the ideal setting for a surreal black and white film.
Are you passionate about Rubens's paintings?
Virtually nowhere else are the big art cities located as close together as in Flanders. Are you passionate about Rubens's paintings?
Then I recommend the following places:
Brussels: Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels
Ghent: Sint-Baafskathedraal and Museum voor Schone Kunsten