CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Rubens, Jordaens, van Dyck and their circle: Flemish master drawings from the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Exhibition: 13 September - 10 November 2002


A.W.F.M. Meij and Maartje de Haan

From the museum website

Rubens, Jordaens, Van Dyck, and Their Circle: Flemish Master Drawings from the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen features 100 drawings by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678), Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), and a group of their contemporaries. The exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam possesses one of the most outstanding collections of old master drawings in the world. Its particularly rich collection of works by seventeenth-century Flemish masters reflects a period when drawings came to fulfill multiple functions in the creation and production of finished works of art, often becoming highly collectible works in and of themselves. Illustrating the variety of ways that artists used drawings, the exhibition includes examples of preparatory drawings for paintings and prints, copies of earlier works of art, and studies after nature, as well as personal sketches made for the simple pleasure of drawing.

Flemish Master Drawings opens with twenty-nine remarkable drawings by Peter Paul Rubens, one of the most influential northern artists of the Baroque period. His virtuosity, technical mastery and robust power are evident in works such as Portrait of Hélène Fourment (ca. 1631), the magnificent red chalk study, Three Standing Nude Women (ca. 1622-25), and Martyrdom of St. Andrew (ca. 1630s), a study for a large painting produced for the Flemish Hospital in Madrid.

The monumental A Kneeling Man Seen from the Back (ca. 1609-1610), made in preparation for a large painting for the Antwerp City Hall, depicts the figure of a kneeling man that appeared often in Rubens’ work, as well as in drawings by Anthony Van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens. A comparison of the work with Van Dyck’s A Seated Man, Leaning Backwards (ca. 1618) makes apparent the influence of Rubens on the young artist.

Van Dyck was Rubens’ favorite and most successful student, and later made an eminent career for himself as a portrait painter for the English court and aristocracy. With the exception of a drawing of the English village of Rye, the nineteen drawings by Van Dyck included in the exhibition date from 1618 to 1621, during which time he worked as principal assistant to Rubens, and from 1628 to 1632, following his travels in Italy. Van Dyck had a highly developed sense of elegance and refinement that can be seen in works such as The Crucifixion (ca. 1628-30), created as a study for a painting in the main altar of the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Ghent.

After the death of Rubens and Van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens, who had trained in Van Dyck’s studio, became the leading painter in Antwerp. The twenty drawings in the exhibition by Jordaens illustrate his debt to both masters, and showcase his highly successful, lively genre pieces based on Flemish folklore and proverbs. His characteristic red, white and black chalk studies are represented in the exhibition by Bagpiper (ca. 1630s), a study for The King Drinks (ca. 1638), which is also included in the show.

The final section of the exhibition illustrates how other Flemish artists of the seventeenth century—including Adriaen van Stalbempt (1580-1662), Jan Wildens (1586-1653) and Frans Snijders (1579-1657)—were influenced by drawings of the great masters while, at the same time, developing highly specialized styles of their own.

The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

The Flemish Master Drawings exhibition reflects the magnificence of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collections and its ongoing interest in Flemish art of the seventeenth century. A collection of Flemish drawings that lawyer F.J.O. Boijmans assembled in the early 1800s formed the core of the museum when it was founded in 1849. In 1940, port magnate D.G. van Beuningen donated to the museum works from the important collection of banker and industrialist Fran Koenigs, a foremost collector of Rubens, Jordaens, Van Dyck, and their contemporaries.

Since that time, the museum has contributed to the understanding and appreciation of seventeenth-century Flemish artists through numerous exhibitions, publications, loans, and research. Its holdings also include paintings, drawings, prints, and decorative objects spanning the Middle Ages to the present time.

American Federation of Arts

Founded by an act of Congress in 1909, the American Federation of Arts originates and organizes art exhibitions that travel internationally and develops educational programs in collaboration with the museum community. Through these programs, the AFA seeks to strengthen the ability of museums to enrich the public’s experience and understanding of art. Please visit the AFA web site at


A.W.F.M. Meij and Maartje de Haan, Rubens, Jordaens, Van Dyck and their circle: Flemish master drawings from the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, with essays by A.W.F.M. Meij, chief curator of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and organizer of the exhibition, and by noted scholars of Flemish art Hans Vlieghe, R. Baetens, Carl Depaux, Bert Meijer, and Ger Luijten. Rotterdam (Boijmans Van Beuningen and NAi) 2001.
ISBN 90-5662-212-9 (NAi).

An important part of the famous collection of Old Master drawings in the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam are the c. 250 drawings by Flemish masters of the 17th century. Among these, the drawings by the great Antwerp masters Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) and Anthonie van Dyck (1599-1641) stand out as absolute highlights. This generously illustrated publication examines seventy of their important drawings, discussing not only the significance of these works, but also their provenance, attribution and dating. This book also focuses on contemporaries, born between 1575 and 1650, who worked more or less in the shadow of these great masters, such as Lucas van Uden, Jan Wildens, Adriaen van Stalbempt, Peter Bout, Frans Snijders, Cornelis Schut and Abraham van Diepenbeeck. Recently their work has attracted more and more attention in art literature. They are all specialists in their own genre, for example landscapes, seascapes and still lifes, or biblical, religious and historical painting. Alongside this extensive catalogue of works, this book includes various essays: Hans Vlieghe writes on Flemish art of the first half of the 17th century; Bert Meijer about cultural relations between Antwerp and Venice; Roger Baetens about the decline of Antwerp’s prosperity; Carl Depauw about Flemish drawing in the 17th century; and Ger Luijten on print production in the ateliers of painters in Antwerp.


Support has been provided by the Government of Flanders. Additional support has been provided by the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust.

Other venue

Pittsburgh, Frick Art Museum (5 April-2 June 2002).