Wednesday 23 January 2008

Rubens, a Genius at Work, Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, Rue de la Regence, Brussels

Thinly spread over six galleries, this informative exhibition mixes paintings by Rubens and his collaborators from the Museum's permanent collection with works on loan from elsewhere. The curator has carefully combined a variety of portraits and group paintings to show how Rubens worked 400 years ago. It appears, he started with a small painting before repeating it on a much bigger scale, often delegating the less prominent elements of the canvas to other artists in his studio. In some cases, a painting was also replicated as a huge and intricate tapestry - one of which covers an entire wall of the museum. The curator has also hung an original Rubens alongside a replica painted by one of his studio staff, clearly demonstrating the difference between a master and a less talented artist. The exhibition also highlights how Rubens repeatedly painted the same subjects, such as a wild old man, into several - very different - works, reinforcing the impression of an exceptional, but businesslike, artist seeking to maximise his output. 8/10