The current show at the Royal Academy tries to establish Rubens as a game-changing artist, someone who fundamentally changed art, who is referenced time and time again and still remains relevant.
It’s a good thematic show, with two or three excellent Rubens on display, in particular the Garden of Love which includes a number of prep sketches and etchings showing how the huge and very beautiful painting was created. The very politically incorrect Tiger, Leopard and Lion Hunt also makes the trip worthwhile.
It also includes many more wonderful pictures by a huge range of artists from his peer Rembrandt through to Picasso and further. One room of art inspried by Rubens was curated by Jenny Saville along the theme of flesh made art. It included Lucien Freud, de Kooning and a number of other artists that might feel very stretched indeed. But perhaps sticking to a more central theme, the fleshiness, the reality of his work would have been of benefit
The exhibition felt spread thin with not enough good paintings by the man himself to carry the different themes. Maybe it just suffered from expectations that were set too high.