In the sixteenth century, the people of Flanders revolted to free themselves from the foreign rule of Spain, but they did not succeed. Foreign rule and the dominance of Catholic religion continued, but as a result of peace and prosperity in the seventeenth century, art flourished along with social stability.
The focal point of this rise was Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), whose art and personality influenced almost all contemporary Flemish painters. His life was happy. He was also a diplomat and achieved respect, fame and glory in both the fields of painting and diplomacy. He was a well-mannered, well-educated and religious person. He was the son of a court official and received his early education in Antwerp.
After receiving education from two local painters, he went to Italy at the age of 23, where, after staying in the service of the Duke of Mantua for eight years, he studied the art of Italy’s Renaissance and Baroque period in different places like Venice, Rome etc.
There he copied the paintings of famous artists and made sketches from Greek statues. Before him, many Flemish painters had come to Italy and while blindly imitating the art there, they forgot to create independently.
But Rubens was an artist of great talent and his study in Italy was nourishing for his talent. His paintings are not just the result of hard work, they have such a natural sensual attraction and liveliness which is not seen in the works of other painters.
The soft musculature of the human body, the shine of satin clothes, rhythmic drawing, gentle and pleasing color harmony and the poetic effect of the entire picture were the specialties of his art. While influenced by classical art, Rubens’s art does not have the rigor of classical art; It is realistic and alive.
But Rubens’ art does not have the rigor of classical art; He is realistic and alive. But Rubens’s art cannot be properly appreciated only from the realistic point of view. Earlier, he was a poet at heart and had immense love for humans, animals, birds, nature etc.
Due to his poetic nature, he has included figures of mermaids and Cupid in paintings of realistic subjects like ‘Marie de Medici’s arrival at Marseille’ and has made allegorical paintings like ‘the meeting of the earth and the water god’.
Rubens painted various subjects, including Biblical stories, incidents from the lives of saints, mythological and historical subjects, rural life, nature scenes and individual portraits. His artistic creations, rich with diverse philosophies, constantly inventive and highly spontaneous, are astonishing.
Apart from his natural talent, he has mastered the techniques of drawing through his hard work and has enabled him to create innumerable paintings. When he returned to Antwerp in 1609, Archduke Ferdinand, the Viceroy of Spain, appointed him court painter. Now those working rooms became the art center of Flanders.
Many skilled professional painters became his assistants and a painting factory was opened there to meet the huge demand for paintings.
Rubens would make the initial design of the picture and then his assistants would work on it; Some worked on animal figures, some depicted objects and some depicted background scenes; Finally, Rubens would do the work of refining the picture.
In the famous early painting ‘Crucifixion of Christ’, Rubens has transformed the traditional subject with his talent; Still they did it in Italy. The study has clear implications. By assimilating the knowledge gained from his studies, Rubens has given a form to the painted scene which is simultaneously pitiful and impressive, natural and grand, secular and religious.
By marking the figures of Jesus and the people who brought down his body and clothes with curved lines in the right direction, the descent has been given a rhythmic pace; The figure of Christ is highlighted by oblique dramatic lighting; Due to the connection of the descending action outside the picture area with the vague human figures depicted in the upper part, the entire scene has acquired a divine form and it does not seem that it is a worldly event.
The effect of light is realistic but sentimental like that of Caravaggio, while the depiction of Christ’s bulging muscles is reminiscent of Michelangelo. Mary Magdalene and her companions do not look like disciples of Jesus but like court ladies and that is the influence of Rubens’ court art.
Rubens’s paintings like ‘The Crucifixion of Christ’, which combine religious, secular, realistic and grandiose elements, were in accordance with the demands of the Protestant Reformation and because of them, Rubens got a special place in the court art of the Baroque period.
Churches, kings and patrons of the Catholic sect wanted such paintings which could attract the public with physical beauty and would help in making them loyal to the Catholic sect by having a psychological religious impact on them. Currently, many critics dislike Rubens’s paintings of religious subjects.
They accept the artistic qualities of paintings like ‘Crucifixion of Jesus’, ‘Adoration of the Magi’, ‘The Last Supper of Saint Francis’, but in their opinion, there is exaggeration, superficiality and lack of truth in these paintings, which is contrary to religiosity. Is.
Among the many painting works assigned to Rubens, the painting made for the palace of Queen Marie of France and the Medici was important, in which the events of the queen’s life are depicted in the allegorical style. Due to this, Flemish art had a great influence on French art and the painters there started coming to the palace to study the paintings of Rubens.
The flourishing of all the characteristics of Rubens’ art is seen in paintings like ‘Judgment of Paris’. The story is informed by mythological symbols, but the main attraction of the picture is the depiction of the naked, soft bodies of the three goddesses in light shimmering colors, which he has done from the study he made in the study of his second wife, Helen Furmet.
The opposition between the softness of the female body and the strength of the male body has been skillfully expressed. The paintings are full of artistic qualities like pleasant color harmony, subject-appropriate composition, rhythmic drawing etc. Among other paintings on similar mythological subjects, ‘The Abduction of the Daughters of Lucius’ is particularly famous.
Among the personal portraits of Rubens, ‘Self-Portrait with Isabella Brunt’ and the semi-nude standing portrait of ‘Helen Fument’ are famous. Examples of his paintings of rural life are ‘Loken’s letter’ and ‘Winter scene’. He has also made romantic nature paintings like ‘The Wrecked Ship of Aeneas’.
When Rubens went to Madrid in 1628, he was introduced to Velasquez and Velasquez was impressed by his art. Rubens’ art not only influenced contemporary art but because of its original qualities it guided future artists until the nineteenth century.
Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) was a disciple of Rubens and received a lot of education from Rubens, but his art also shows independent talent. He painted religious, mythological and domestic subjects and portraits, outstanding examples of which are ‘Marriage of Saint Catherine’, ‘Allegory of Productivity’, ‘Four Gospel Writers’, ‘Miracle of Gifted Wealth’.
He painted twelve paintings of zodiac signs to decorate his home which were later purchased by the French government; These grand and simplified paintings are the best representative works of Baroque ornamentation style. His painting work is unique and confident and the balanced composition, solid powerful shapes and peaceful atmosphere of his paintings fascinate the viewer.
Like Rubens, he was not particularly interested in poetics and was inclined towards reality; His color consistency is also brighter than Rubens and the shadow and light are also more contrasting. (Figure 67)
Antonie van Dyck (1599–1641) worked with Rubens for some time and then lived in Italy for five years. In 1632, he went to London where King Charles I of England appointed him royal painter. He made paintings of religious subjects and portraits of individuals.
Religious paintings like ‘Crown of Thorns’ and ‘Mourning over the Dead Body of Jesus’ are excellent from artistic point of view but they hardly give any religious feeling. Even in the paintings of such subjects, he would focus on the depiction of the human body and clothes and try to make the entire picture beautiful.
The portrayal of kings and aristocrats was a suitable field for his tendency and he became very famous in the same. ‘Full Portrait of King Charles with Horse’ (Louvre), ‘Self-Portrait with Family’, ‘Jane Goodwin “Maria Louise Van Thurn” (Vienna), are among his famous person portraits.
Van Dyck had a deep knowledge of the psychology of the aristocracy and he painted such elegant and majestic portraits that his patrons were very pleased. In the paintings made in his later years, when he had reached the highest pinnacle of success, the cooperation of his disciples is clearly visible.
Nevertheless, his person portraits include ‘Liberty of the Instrumental Musicians of Antwerp’ (Pinakotek, Munich), ‘Duke of Lennox, James Stuart’ (New York
), ‘Painter Snyder and wife’ (Kassel) have succeeded in conveying the inner temperamental characteristics of the persons depicted. Van Dyck’s painting ‘Portrait of an Old Lady’ (Lichtenstein, Vienna), made in the 19th year of his life, also uses boldness and direct marking, similar to that of France Hals.
Other individual painters from Flanders include the serious-natured and passionate painters Cornelis de Vos (1585–1651) and Justus Sustermans (1597–1681), who served as court painter to the Medici family of Florence. Sussmans’s individual portraits of Mary Magdalene and Pandolfo Ricasoli (Pitti Museum) are among his outstanding paintings.
Sustermans’s portraits are often reminiscent of Van Dyck’s art, and some of his portraits against dark backgrounds foreshadow the early works of Mané, the future Impressionist painter.
Frans Snyders (1579–1657) so successfully assimilated Rubens’s artistic style that he copied animals and fruit and flower motifs from many of Rubens’s and Jordaens’s paintings. He has also independently made animal pictures and object pictures of vegetables and fish.
David Teniers the Younger (1610–1690) had a long career as a renowned painter. He was married to the granddaughter of the famous painter Kruegel, whose godfather was Rubens. He was the government painter appointed by the country’s administrator, Archduke Leopold William, and was the curator of the Archduke’s art collection.
During his long life, he continued to create art and the main subjects of his artworks were farmers drinking, smoking and fighting in rural taverns. And the special popularity he gained due to his numerous paintings on these subjects continued for almost three centuries.
After that his popularity decreased and it was also confirmed that in terms of artistry he was a mediocre painter. But the art of Adriaan Brouwer (1605-1638), who also painted the same subjects, was certainly of superior quality. His art is superior in terms of coherence, color beauty and dominance over the notation method.
His paintings ‘Farmers’ Conference’ (Brussels) and ‘Scene of a hut’ (Louvre) have the qualities of freedom and forcefulness similar to modern art. Jan Sieberrechts (1627-1696) is the only Flemish artist of that period who was not influenced by the art of Rubens.
His paintings of rural scenes, ‘Wharf near the Palace’ (Antwerp), ‘View of Bangor’ (Munich) are painted in brown and cool green colors and have the same attention to detail as primitive artists.