Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

225 × 145 × 22 mm
256 pages
87 illustrations, 67 in colour
12 Apr 2021
Renaissance Lives

Rubens’s Spirit From Ingenuity to Genius Alexander Marr

Peter Paul Rubens was the most inventive and prolific northern European artist of his age. This book discusses his life and work in relation to three interrelated themes: spirit, ingenuity and genius. It argues that Rubens and his reception were pivotal in the transformation of early modern ingenuity into Romantic genius. Ranging across the artist’s entire career, it explores Rubens’s engagement with these themes in his art and biography. The book looks at Rubens’s forays into altarpiece painting in Italy as well as his collaborations with fellow artists in his hometown of Antwerp, and his complex relationship with the spirit of pleasure. It concludes with his late landscapes in connection to genius loci, the spirit of the place.

Rubens’s Spirit is a beautifully written, subtle analysis of the prodigious creativity that informed and permeated the work of this most versatile artist, from the large altarpieces and mythologies to the portraits, genre scenes and, finally, the late landscapes. Marr’s exploration of the multiple expressions of Rubens’s spirited art sheds new light on the notion of ingenuity, a key term of the period that would finally, in its modified form as genius, dominate aesthetic theory up to the modern day.’ — Christine Göttler, Professor emerita of Art History, University of Bern

‘“Genius”, “ingenuity”, “spirit” – these are broad terms to apply to any artist, but with great wit and erudition Alex Marr shows how their specific seventeenth-century use enlarges our view of Rubens and his art . . . Few introductory texts to Rubens have presented so much original research, and none move with such ease from subjects like seventeenth-century dietetics and optical theory to the implications of Rubens’s representations of male and female figures for issues of gender. A moving and beautifully written account of the astonishingly diverse aspects of Rubens’s art and life.’ — David Freedberg, Pierre Matisse Professor of the History of Art, Columbia University

Show all

Alexander Marr is Reader in the History of Early Modern Art at the University of Cambridge. His most recent book is the co-authored Logodaedalus: Word Histories of Ingenuity in Early Modern Europe (2018).