I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to examine works by Peter Paul Rubens. This small exhibit features the painting, The Massacre of the Innocents, that was a gift to the AGO from Ken Thomson. The exhibit also includes the paintings, Samson and Delilah, on loan from the National Gallery, London, and The Entombment, on loan from the National Gallery of Canada. These paintings are early works by Rubens. While Michelangelo drew figure studies from dissections, Rubens drew figure studies from sculptures. Tetrode’s sculpture, The Horse Trainer, is in the exhibit. I also draw figure studies from sculptures in the AGO. I studied the paintings, Samson and Delilah and The Entombment, examining the techniques used by Rubens to emphasize the fallen figures and at the same time maintain the 3 dimensional quality or form of the figures. In Samson and Delilah, I saw that from the top of Delilah’s head and moving down and over Samson, the direction is from top left to bottom right. Therefore, we see a downward movement. If the direction was from bottom left to top right we would see a soaring movement. This is because most of us read from left to right and therefore enter a painting from the left. In The Entombment, the white shroud around the Christ figure and the man on the right side, bent over holding Christ’s legs, repeat the downward movement of Christ’s body. This also adds to the movement of Christ. Rubens also used other techniques to emphasize the paintings’ fallen figures. Light and shadow create the 3 dimensional qualities of form/figures. If you link the form shadows, i.e. the shadow on the arm of Samson, the figure will obtain more roundness.
[Click on the title of this post to go to the Ruben's Virtual Gallery where you can see all 3 paintings.]