Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640): The Drawings

January 15–April 3, 2005

Rubens's Beginnings

It is logical that the earliest known works on paper by Rubens are drawn copies, as copying was a basic aspect of art education. Probably at the age of twelve or thirteen, Rubens started to faithfully—but never slavishly—record prints. Initially he copied them in their entirety, but fairly quickly he became more selective and copied only what interested him in a composition.

The Flemish master, however, did not copy only in his youth but continued doing so throughout his life, as it was the easiest way of acquiring reproductions of another artist's work. For Rubens, who had an interest in so many art forms, it was almost a necessity to make copies. Eventually, they added up to a rich collection of themes and motifs for future works.