Rubenism

The view that color is of equal importance to drawing and design; exemplified in the work of the Flemish artist PETER-PAUL RUBENS (1577-1640) and championed by those opposed to poussinism in French academic circles.

A success for the Rubenists was achieved when Roger de Piles was elected a member (as an amateur) of the French Academy in 1699, and the final signal that the Rubenists had won came when Antoine Watteau’s The Embarkation for Cythera was accepted as his reception piece by the Academy in 1717.[2]

Watteau’s acceptance was, however, perhaps not everything that he could have hoped for. When he applied to join the Academy, there was no suitable category for his fête galante works, so the academy simply created one rather than reject his application, describing him as a “peintre des festes galantes”.[6][7] While this acknowledged Watteau as the originator of that genre, and was a significant mark of acceptance both of him and his style of painting, it also prevented him being recognised as a history painter, the highest class of painter, and the only one from which the academy’s professors were drawn. Charles-Antoine Coypel, the son of its then director, tellingly said: “The charming paintings of this gracious painter would be a bad guide for whoever wished to paint the Acts of the Apostles.”[8]

Watteau is considered the greatest of the Rubenist artists. Other important Rubenists include François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin benefited from the new found interest in still-life and genre painting.[9]

Significance

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