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In: Gateways to the Book
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Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) is generally regarded as the painter of the Counter-Reformation and the embodiment of Flemish Baroque. Since the founding of the Belgian state in 1830, he and his art have been increasingly appropriated as a point of reference for the cultural identity of Flanders. Art was also appropriated in the formation of the national identity of the Kingdom of the Netherlands – in particular the depiction of nature and landscape that had become a speciality of many painters in the northern provinces.

But Rubens too was admired by his contemporaries for his landscapes, and in the Dutch Republic they were held in high esteem. For his part, Rubens can be shown to have followed closely developments in landscape painting on the Northern side of the border. Despite the difficult political situation, there was also an ongoing exchange between North and South, even during the Eighty Years’ War. Rubens bought and owned Dutch pictures, and added human and animal figures to landscapes of his Dutch colleagues. He took a general interest in such pictures as an incentive to paint landscapes himself, which, reproduced in prints, became well-known in the Dutch Republic.

In terms of landscape art, not only can a lively exchange of images and ideas be demonstrated, but it can also be shown that the existing differences were not understood as an expression of different political or religious contexts. The example of Rubens and his landscapes shows the value of a change of perspective to focus not on the differences between Flemish and Dutch art, but on cultural cross-border connections.

Open Access
In: Oud Holland – Journal for Art of the Low Countries