Rubenesque – influencing art and beauty with a word

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The word Rubenesque is used as an insult as often as it is to describe a style of painting, and particularly the nude female form. With the modern media and celebrity culture making value judgements on body size and body image, the Royal Academy’s forthcoming art exhibition – ‘Rubens and His Legacy’ – is a timely opportunity to reassess not just his works, but the influence on both his contemporaries and on future generations.

François Boucher (1703–1770) , Pan and Syrinx, © Wikipedia

Incorporating not just his works, but those with a ‘Rubenesque influence’, the exhibition, which runs from 24th January to 10th April 2015, is the first major examination of his paintings and those that evoke his choice of subjects. However, appreciating the work of such an influential artist also presents an ideal opportunity to look beyond the exhibition itself and examine both contemporary and modern attitudes to his work.

Peter Paul Rubens, Pan and Syrinx, 1617 © Ute Brunzel

The Royal Academy offers you the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in the artist and exhibition with events, talks, and activities available to both enhance your enjoyment of the exhibition itself, and to educate you about contemporary attitudes, politics, and history. With special deals available for two people, including audio guides and cocktails in the bar of the Keeper’s House restaurant, the exhibition could add a little culture to any Valentine’s Day outings you may be already planning.

© Photo courtesy Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Peter Paul Rubens, The Garden of Love © Photo courtesy Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Half-term week also offers workshops tailored towards getting children interested in art, directly associated with the exhibition. Artist-led, these are an ideal opportunity to demystify art and make it accessible. The short story events by leading authors are also essential fodder to accompany the exhibition. Extended hours events make it possible to see the exhibition after work if you’re keen to avoid busier weekend periods, and with a wealth of Rubens-related articles on the Royal Academy website, there’s plenty to bookmark on your phone or tablet to read on your commute.

© Private Collection. Photo: Ali Elai, Camerarts

Paul Cezanne, Three Bathers © Private Collection. Photo: Ali Elai, Camerarts

Pre-booking is advised not just for surrounding events but for the exhibition itself, as this is a real first for this great and influential artist and celebrator of the female form, and it is likely to be very popular. This is truly one of the most highly recommended exhibitions of 2015.

© Photo courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

Sir Anthony Van Dyck, A Genoese Noblewoman and Her Son
© Photo courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington