From the museum website, 19 June 2012
Tremendous changes swept Europe between 1600 and 1800, the years in which the art in this exhibition was produced. Religious upheavals transformed the way people thought about and utilized art. Trade routes to faraway lands, such as China and India, became more established, ensuring a steady stream of exotic goods for European consumers. Advances in the sciences transformed long held views on the way the universe worked and the place of humans within that universe. Technical aspects of art making were honed and codified, as art academies grew in number and power.
These exciting times resulted in a golden age of European painting. The number of artists and the number of art collectors grew exponentially during this period, as the fine arts reached an increasingly wider audience. Rembrandt, Rubens, and the Golden Age of Painting features art from this remarkable period from the permanent collection of the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, with examples by Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck, Jan Steen, Jacob van Ruisdael, William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough, and Pompeo Batoni.
Comprised of the major genres of painting that were popular at this time—portraits, religious paintings, landscapes, scenes of everyday life, still lifes, and interpretations of classical antiquity—this exhibition illustrates both the people and the objects that made the two centuries between 1600 and 1800 such a rich cultural age. Highlighting work from Italy, France, Spain, Flanders, the Netherlands, Germany, and England, Rembrandt, Rubens, and the Golden Age of Painting illustrates how the tremendous changes in religion and science, coupled with the economic growth that swept Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, gave way to a period of incredible artistic creation.