While I make a point to visit special exhibitions at the museums near where I live, it always seems like an extra treat when I'm visiting a museum in a new place and they have something additional on display.
At the Legion of Honor this summer, they had an exhibition on Early Rubens, detailing much of the Dutch Master's early works and some of the accompanying preparation sketches.
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) was a highly skilled Dutch oil painter, one of few artists who knew fame during their lifetime.
In the last twenty years of his life, Rubens' work gained him enough fame that he was sought out by nobles who wanted one of his paintings on their walls, and inspired followers with his techniques.
Early on in his career, Rubens studied in Italy — gathering techniques that honed his skill and brought drama to the center of his biblical depictions.
When Rubens returned to Antwerp, surprisingly a Catholic city amidst the Reformation, his training in Italy matched perfectly to the devotional environment of the city while adding drama to secular scenes.
Rubens brings a tactile sense of flesh to his paintings, no doubt from his time spent in Italy where depictions of Christ were so lifelike they compelled viewers to reach out and touch the canvas.
This fullness and more southern-Renaissance display of robust anatomy emphasized the popular style of making scenes appear overly realistic and lifelike — an attempt to break the 'fourth wall' of the canvas into the viewer's space in both devotional and secular works.
One of my favorite parts of art history is learning how many ways artists were connected across countries and worlds — how techniques and perspectives were shared and created the global cultural exchange that we take for granted today. If you were to see one of Rubens's works without a description, would you guess it was by a southern or northern European artist?