Rubens – ANALYZED PAINTING #1
Hey everyone, welcome back! Hope the art is flourishing!
It’s been a while since I’ve analyzed a Peter Paul Rubens painting, and he happens to be one of the best. It’s said that his art was so in-demand that he would sit in his studio to design the painting, then send the plans down to his many apprentices. They were trained to paint like him, so they would enlarge the painting and finish it off . Now, if you paid the extra dollar Rubens would descend from his studio, do some final touches on the painting, then sign it. Whether or not this is all entirely true is questionable, but it seems to makes sense to me. This just goes to show you that anyone can learn to paint, but it takes a master to compose and design a painting that will be marveled forever.
Here we can see Bacchus, god of wine, getting his drink on. Bacchus would be celebrated by the Romans on March 16th & 17th…is this where our St Patty’s day came from? All kinds of crazy things are going on, and I think this really starts to show how Rubens had a great sense of humor. Most of his paintings have satire or quirky humor within them. Can you see the little kid urinating, and the prostitute pouring wine into his cup as it overflows and drips into the baby satyr’s mouth (at least it looks like a baby satyr…his father on the right). This could’ve inspired a Jerry Springer episode!
Root PHI Rectangle Basic Armature – We can see that Rubens is designing it in a Root Phi rectangle. Remember, that is equivalent to our 11×14 size paper…I’m sure this painting is much bigger than that though. We can see how the arms and legs of Bacchus, his face, the woman’s face…everything is starting to lock into the basic armature.
Root PHI Armature with Major Area Divisions (MAD) – Now with the MAD in place we can start to locate the placement of the baby satyr, the child on the right, the old guy on the right, the foot of Bacchus, the lion he is stepping on…a very well organized and designed painting just from using the grid so far.
Locked into the Grid – Here we can see mostly everything which locks directly into the grid.
Gamut – We can see that Rubens uses a limited number of directions to incorporate into his painting for rhythm. A rhythm in which can only usually be felt by the viewer and not described.
Coincidences – Rubens coincides with many elements all the way across his painting. If you follow the line down from the woman’s hand, it coincides with the edge of Bacchus’ hand, the lip of the baby satyr and its right arm, then down to Bacchus’ heal, and the ear and eye of the lion. Follow the other lines and you will see how he matches up the edges of elements to create this movement and unity. Most of these can be generated simply by using the grid for guidance in organizing your piece.
Arabesque – Plenty of movement created in his arabesques.
Ellipses – Here we can see just a few of the ellipses Rubens used to create unity and movement. Can you see how he links the face of the woman, Bacchus left pectoral, the back and hand of the old man, around the tree, then back to the woman?
Aerial Perspective – Here we can see how Rubens is creating depth and atmosphere by fading the background into shadow, and painting a haze in the middle to help separate the characters.
Breathing Room – As we can see, Bacchus has plenty of breathing room. Rubens places him lower in the painting to help with the top to bottom balance of the painting.
Gazing Direction – We can see that the gazing direction of the painting is facing left, yet Bacchus is facing right. Rubens is playing games and knows exactly how to balance his painting from left to right. If Bacchus were gazing to the left, the painting might appear off balance, giving more interest to the left than the right.
If we look at the gaze of each character we can see the continued games Rubens is playing. He’s creating movement around the painting by directing our eyes and designing with sophistication.
Figure Ground Relationship (FGR) – Bacchus is the main character and he is clearly defined from the background. There are some areas where the contrast is minimal and doesn’t help define the subject. For instance the cup Bacchus is holding tends to be lost because it is the same value as the decanter and background.
Black and White Blur (BW BLUR) -Here we can easily see the value scheme and locate the lightest light and darkest dark.
Greatest Area of Contrast (GAC ) – Bacchus is surely the lightest light which is perfect because he is the main subject. He also have him surrounded by dark shadows which helps create the GAC. Also, his hair is very dark and surrounded by light areas…helping us identify him as the main subject.
Edge Flicker (EF) – There is a bit of EF as the child on the right is close to the edge. It would be worse if the background on the right of the child were as dark as the area on the left of the child, but we can see that Rubens controlled his values very well.
Is anyone starting to gain confidence with their art, or finding new inspiration by these analyzed paintings? Would love to hear about any progress you are seeing. Leave me a comment below or shoot me an email. Keep up the great art everyone! Much love for the support!