Rubens Oil Sketches at the Berkeley Art Museum

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Rubens Oil Sketches at the Berkeley Art Museum

From Brad Silverstein

Published before 2005


Anyone in the bay area who has a chance should check out the exhibition of Rubens' oil sketches at the Berkeley Art Museum. The range of finish, even within the studies, is varied: the exhibition displays panels with barest indications of color that are little more than colored drawings, and one example of almost monochromatic underpaintingesque study The Three Graces. Predominantly, after laying out the design with a staggering ease he dives immediately into semitransparent colors. They are all jewels of painting (some gems more valuable than others) and I left the place mucho inspired.

All of the twisted and overlapping bodies can be a bit over the top sometimes, but as a painter I'm bowled over at how he didn't give a second thought to adding or taking away multiple figures, as today a canvas with more than 3 people in it is a big deal. The other thing that surprised me was his facility to work on such a small scale with great intricacy, as I was accustomed to the monumental workshop canvases and several head studies that were at least twice the size of these panels.

If anyone is planning to go, give me the heads up, as I'd love an excuse to get back there again.