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Peter Paul Rubens is considered one of the most important Flemish painters of the 17th century His style became an international definition of the animated exuberantly sensuous aspects of baroque painting Combining the bold brushwork luminous color and shimmering light of the Venetian school with the fervent vigor of Michelangelos art and the formal dynamism of Hellenistic sculpture Rubens created a vibrant art its pulsating energies emanating from tensions between the intellectual and emotional the classical and the romantic For 200 years the vitality and eloquence of his work influenced such artists as Antoine Watteau in the early 18th centuryand Eugne Delacroix and Pierre Auguste Renoir in the 19th century Rubenss father Jan Rubens was a prominent lawyer and Antwerp alderman Having converted from Catholicism to Calvinism Jan Rubens in 1568 fled Flanders with his family because of persecutions against Protestants In 1577 Peter Paul was born in exile at Siegen Westphalia now in Germany also the birthplace of his brother Philip and his sister Baldina There their father had become the adviser and lover of Princess Anna of Saxony wife of Prince William I of Orange William the Silent On the death of Jan Rubens in 1587 his widow returned the family to Antwerp where they again became Catholics After studying the classics in a Latin school and serving as a court page Peter Paul decided to become a painter He apprenticed in turn with Tobias Verhaecht Adam van Noort and Otto van Veen called Vaenius three minor Flemish painters influenced by 16th-century Mannerist artists of the Florentine-Roman school The young Rubens was as precocious a painter as he had earlier been a scholar of modern European languages and of classical antiquity In 1598 at the age of 21 he was accorded the rank of master painter of the Antwerp Guild of St Luke Following the example of many northern European artists of the period Rubens felt drawn by necessity to travel to Italy
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