Collabos: Jan Brueghel and Peter Paul Rubens


Jan Brueghel the Younger and Peter Paul Rubens, Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, 1628

Collaboration, the process by which two or more artists work together to produce a single work of art, is virtually synonymous with painting in the Low Countries in the years before 1700. The tradition of painters specializing in particular genres–figures, still life (game, fruit, vegetables), landscape, to name but a few–and contributing a share to a painting, was already quite well established by the time Rubens and Brueghel began their artistic partnership…in about 1598. Frequently, the principle artist would plan the composition, executing the most important areas himself, and engage the services of a second painter for the figures or details….This practice was so common, and had so many different modes, that there was no middle-Dutch word for what today falls under the general umbrella of “collaboration.” Extraordinarily, artists of equal stature contributed to the genesis of a composition and shared in its execution. In such conceptual collaborations, individual contributions were integrated yet distinct and, as in the joint works of Rubens and Brueghel, accorded equal visual value.

–from Anne T. Woolett, Rubens & Brueghel: A Working Friendship

Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens, The Feast of Achelous, 1615

While Peter Paul Rubens has generally been considered the dominant partner in their collaboration, his nine-year senior and close friend Jan Brueghel was actually the  painter most responsible for the composition of the paintings, as well their execution.  The tradition that was well-established that Wollett refers to can be noted in the painting below, which was worked on by both Bellini and Titian. The training of Renaissance artists occurred through the transmission of artistic skills from older to younger artists in  workshop environments. Commissioned murals were labored on by entire workshops and artists grew into their own separate identities through a system of apprenticeship where skills were mastered before individual artists gained their independence.

bellini titian

Giovanni Bellini and Titian, The Feast of the Gods, 1514

Apparently the currently favored theory  for The Feast of the Gods is that Bellini painted the canvas initially. Dosso Dossi painted over top of half of the painting. And then Titian repainted the portion painted over by Dossi. X-rays show what parts have been painted out and repainted, yet there is nothing to say that Titian didn’t repaint the entire painting or substantial parts of it by making whatever slight modifications he felt necessary, just as any artist would when making their own work.

Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens, Miracle of Saint Hubert, 1617

Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens, The Five Senses: Touch,

Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens, Allegory of Hearing, 1617-18

Jan Brueghel the Younger and Peter Paul Rubens, Fruit Garland with Nature Adorned by the Graces, 1615

Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens, Flora and Zephyr, 1617

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and Jean-Paul Flandrin, Odalisque with Slave, 1842

The image above is to show that artistic collaborations have continued and yet in the above case, as an instance, Flandrin is almost never given credit. That’s because at this point we’ve developed the cult of the Great Artist, where the importance of any given painting depends on who has signed it. The casualty in this kind of thinking, which is  patently financially driven, has been the art of painting itself.

It’s apparent that none of the cult of experts who decide what is or isn’t authentic have any genuine ability to tell with any degree of certainty whatsoever who painted what where no historical documentation exists. The first Rembrandt authentication panel rejected Rembrandt’s The Polish Rider when compiling their list of genuine Rembrandts. Then later, under pressure from other experts, they eventually found it to be genuine. Their criteria for making any kind of judgement is obviously based on hot air. Nobody knows with any certainty who painted The Polish Rider.

http://www.damforstmuseum.org/polish_rider.html

The obsession with money value when it comes to painting is one of the nails in the coffin of painting (perhaps the largest). Painters themselves contribute to it due to the competitive element thrust on them in art schools. We’ve entered a period of absurdity in the arts, where at traditional ateliers painters are all taught to paint exactly alike with the same step-by-step methods leading to a  generic sameness. In art schools, painters aren’t given any basic tools, such as the elementary step of learning to draw, thus we manufacture painters having to invent their own styles leading to the same generic sameness. But this sameness is evidenced by no depth of understanding of drawing. Thus there’s the reliance on photo-copying or  collage in representational efforts. Or painters pick up an abstract style or make faux-naive art.

Rembrandt, The Polish Rider, circa 1655

Anonymous, Landscape and Temptation of St. Anthony, circa 1550/1575

When I was growing up in the early 1970s the above painting, which hangs in the National Gallery of Art, was credited to Pieter Bruegel. At some point the attribution was changed. This has happened to any number of paintings. How and why  various paintings have their attributions changed is a matter of the deepest secrecy since to expose the chicanery would no doubt make everyone aware that the “experts” have no real authority on which to make their judgments. It strikes me as simply a way to demonstrate their institutional power. Just as they turn their museums into popularity contests, searching for the most audience friendly trivia to bring in the rubes, they shuffle around attributions to show how deeply serious their scholarship is and their deep knowledge of art/art history.  If there was ever a pseudo-science, it’s that of the art expert. These people make the Joel Osteens and Eckhart Tolles look like the epitome of rational thinking.

It’s instructive to take a quick glance at a work of contemporary collaboration just to have a sense of the immense chasm that separates our Corporate Art World from art worlds  past.

The movement from traditional painting to that of the Corporate Art World is a movement from the Sublime to the Ridiculous. And the art “experts” undercut any notion of them being serious scholars  when they don’t speak a word of protest as the museums they work in turn art into rubbish. John Elderfield proves just how thoroughly rotten he is by promoting the infantile Bob Dylan portraits now on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Naturally  moronic critics like Jonathan Jones promote Dylan’s work as brilliant. If only someone will hand  Miley Cyrus a painting set we can have her brilliant work picked up by some museum wanting to boost its box office receipts.

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2013/aug/29/bob-dylan-national-portrait-gallery

Collaboration by three of the greatest artistic geniuses of the 20th century (according to the art experts.)  This about says it all.

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3 Responses to Collabos: Jan Brueghel and Peter Paul Rubens

  1. johnk823 says:

    Bart, Yes, this last blast of 20th century art is so genius that I want to vomit. The future looks dim for the art world and this is what some teachers are teaching as being creative fine art. I’d say it’s not entertaining or appealing to any artistic taste whatsoever. But then, I’m old fashioned and study the real masters as shown above and on other posts.

    It’s one thing to create a surrealistic or abstract piece of work, but even they reflect a substantive reality. As to the work above, which takes three artists to create, well, what can one say?

    It would be interesting to see what kind of piece we could create, working on something together. Just leave room for my signature as well. I always sign the front of my work and on the back. I have a special K stamp, as well as, dating, size, title, additional signature and the medium used. It would be very hard for anyone not to know who did the piece. Also, I have a list of all my work, with the information noted, in my studio. I’m also thinking of getting a safety deposit box for important documents, such as these and others. I keep a photo file of my work as well.

    It’s always important to do as much documentation as one can when it comes to artwork, especially with the vultures out there trying to get their hands on anything they think they can make money from. After all they are vulpine in nature.

    Peace and Blessings, John

  2. trueoutsider says:

    John, as old as I am and for the length of time I’ve watched this idiocy go on, the contrast between the work of past centuries and the point to which we’ve descended in such a short time never fails to amaze me. And even stranger, the vast majority of the people in the art world believe that Clemente/Warhol/Basquiat are three of the greatest geniuses of all time. They really believe this. It’s a world filled with utter morons. The corporations collecting this work and foisting it off on the public are simply reflecting the howling emptiness at the heart of American culture, not to mention the rest of the world that views us as the artistic model that must be followed. Warhol/Basquiat aren’t being foisted down anyone’s throat. The people who love Fifty Shades of Gray, South Park and Miley Cyrus have identical tastes to the art community as a whole.

    The reason why we have an imbecile government is that they were elected by imbeciles. They reason we have imbecilic art filling Contemporary Museums is that it was chosen for a culture of imbeciles. It’s no more complicated than that. Nobody wants to face that depressing fact and so every excuse in the book for why it isn’t the case. Personally, I prefer the truth. There is such a thing as the truth, regardless of what the current academic vogue of deconstruction wants to assert. Deconstruction is the imbecilic philosophical version (and ultimately used as justification) of the CWB collaboration. We’re a culture in ruins.

    I really don’t think there’s anyone or anything within the art world that will arrest our slide into complete corruption, anymore then a revival of art would have been possible in Caligula’s Rome. The widespread decay of cultural values is more than amply demonstrated in the work chosen as the highest representation of our achievements and values. I can’t help but think of Shakespeare when I see what has become of Museum culture, “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

    Sure, if we ever manage to share the same space/time continuum on our travels it would be nice to do some collaborative drawing. I’ve done that from time to time with other artists.

    Peace, Bart

    PS: CNN now has some news… There is a reality. There is the truth. And it’s what contemporary art is designed to distract us all from. This is where two years of corporate lies have landed us.:

    http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2013/08/30/why-fukushima-is-worse-than-you-think/?hpt=hp_c2

  3. johnk823 says:

    Bart,
    Yes, you’re exactly right on all issues. But, our versions of truth and reality may vary. I’ve been telling people for years that when you take God out of the equation and let the world run rampant, then, just like the Jewish nation has suffered throughout the centuries for their unbelief and going against His statutes, there has always been a price to pay (Bible History 101). We are seeing that price being paid again now. It’s around every corner of the globe where He has been dismissed. There are those who reject His precepts and this ideology and want to live life their way and on their own terms and it’s global in nature. What can I say? Truth or lie?

    Just like Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for rejecting God and engaging in lust, greed, adultery and so on, so will every vile and insatiable nation on His planet have to pay a price. That’s the way it has always been from the beginning starting with Adam and Eve (look at biblical history) and nothing has changed since then. Well, God hasn’t changed either and neither have his statutes, and neither will the price to be paid change. It’s history repeating itself over and over. Sorry, but these are the facts according to Scripture, but only to those who believe. There is belief and there is unbelief. God gave us choices, each and everyone of us.

    As for art, well, it’s all over but the crying.

    Peace and Blessings, John

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