This summer will see the reunification of two of Rubens’ master landscapes A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning and The Rainbow Landscape at the Wallace Collection in Rubens: Reuniting the Great Landscapes.
A Parting of the Ways
Although intended as a pair, the two landscapes have been separated for two hundred years. Both were painted at Het Steen, the country estate that Rubens’ purchased in 1635. The paintings remained largely united, until their arrival in Britain in the 19th century.
A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning was gifted to the National Gallery in 1826, while The Rainbow Landscape was bought by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, 30 years later. It was his collection that was bequeathed as the Wallace Collection. So, although both paintings belonged to the nation they were never hung together, until now.
Reuniting the Great Landscapes
In 2019, the Wallace Collection loaned its Perseus and Andromeda by Titian to the National Gallery, and now the National Gallery has made a reciprocal loan of the recently conserved A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning. Prior to this it was believed that the terms under which the Wallace Collection was bestowed to the nation meant they could never been loaned out, and had to be displayed in their entirety.
Dr Xavier Bray, Director of The Wallace Collection, says, “It’s absolutely thrilling for me that for the first time in 200 years, two of the finest jewels of British national collections will each be shown together again, allowing us to view them in a completely new context… As the rainbow was a symbol of hope throughout 2020, we hope that for 2021 The Rainbow Landscape and its pendant bring hope, inspiration, solace and joy to all.”
Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, says, “A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning is a work of simply breathtaking beauty and following its conservation treatment at the National Gallery it will be shown in a unique display at the Wallace Collection where it will be reunited for the first time in two centuries with its equally beautiful companion piece, the Landscape with a Rainbow.”
How the Landscapes Were Created
Rubens painted both paintings relatively late in his life. The artist used Het Steen as his summer retreat from his home and studio in Antwerp. The paintings are both naturalistic and idealistic in from – the rainbow perhaps suggesting hope for the future, while the farm labourers toil away in the field. The rapid brushwork and radiant colours are typical of Rubens’ late style, while his love for the landscape of Flanders continues the tradition of Bruegel.
It is only really by studying at the paintings as they hang opposite each other in the Wallace Collection that you notice the striking similarities of both landscape and light used in the paintings, as well as their matching size. They are virtual mirror images of each other. It also allows you to study the amazing wealth of detail contained within the paintings.
Closer examination of the paintings has revealed that Rubens created them incrementally from the centre, adding new panels as he went along. In the end each is built on twenty oak boards, some of which you can still make out under the canvas.
It is due to its complex construction that A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning has never been lent before, and needed extensive conservation before this loan could occur.
Finally reunited, the two paintings are now hanging face to face in the Wallace Collection’s exhibition galleries, as it believed Rubens would have displayed them at Het Steen.
An excellent video which accompanies the exhibition explains the history of the artworks, the perfect appetiser before you view the twin landscapes.
The exhibition is in partnership with Visit Flanders.
To discover more of what’s happening in the London arts scene read Irene Caswell’s column: Art in the City.
Rubens: Reuniting the Great Landscapes
The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, London, W1U 3BN
3 June to 15 August, from 10am to 5pm.
T: 020 7560 9500
Tickets for Rubens: Reuniting the Great Landscapes
Tickets are free with a suggested £5 donation, and must be booked in advance, and are available from www.wallacecollection.org. Cover image: The Rainbow Landscape, photo Mark Bibby Jackson.
Mark Bibby Jackson
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