Thomas Lawrence was born in the year 1769, when Sir Joshua Reynolds was in his forty-sixth year, and Gainsborough was two-and-forty years his senior. His father, after whom he was named, was a ne’er-do-well of decent birth and good education who had made a clandestine marriage with a lady of better social position than his own; for Lucy Read, who married Thomas Lawrence, senior, was related to the Powis family. Because she listened to his suit she was disowned and disinherited by her relations. Her influence upon her son would seem to have been wholly good; indeed he was devoted to both parents, though his father started to exploit the child’s gifts in nursery days; and his grief when the old people died was very severe. Thomas Lawrence, senior, “stiff in opinion, always in the wrong,” was “everything in turn and nothing long.” Attorney, verse-writer, actor, exciseman, and farmer, he had become a tavern-keeper when his sorely tried wife presented him with the baby who was destined to paint the portrait of Benjamin West that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, and to succeed him as President of the Royal Academy.
The history of the Italian painters provides us with many cases in which men, starting life with talents akin to those that Lawrence enjoyed, claimed and found a measure of immortality. Only a few will be found to declare that the English painter is destined to the very highest place in the annals of British art, but at his best he is a very notable painter indeed, in spite of the fact that everything in his life was working in opposition to the best interests of his art. He had no education, his gifts were exploited shamelessly from the days when he was a little boy. As he grew up, the imperious need for money gave to purely commercial work the precious years that should have been surrendered to study. Happily Fortune was not altogether unkind. She checked the proper development of rare talent, she kept the painter from all opportunity of becoming the most outstanding figure of his generation in the critical eyes of generations to come; but, on the other hand, she loaded him with all the material favours within her gift. His career was as brilliant as the passage of a meteor through the sky; he rose from surroundings of the most unsatisfactory kind to the highest place in the profession he adorned. He became the intimate of princes and people of high degree, and, with certain limitations imposed by an incomplete education, he was a great painter.
In addition to running a large studio in Antwerp that produced paintings popular with nobility and art collectors throughout Europe..
Rubens was born in the German city of Siegen, Westphalia to Jan Rubens and Maria Pypelincks. His father, a Calvinist, and mother fled Antwerp for Cologne in 1568, after increased religious turmoil and persecution of Protestants during the rule of the Spanish Netherlands by the Duke of Alba. Jan Rubens became the legal advisor (and lover) of Anna of Saxony, the second wife of William I of Orange, and settled at her court in Siegen in 1570; their daughter Christine was born in 1571. Following Jan Rubens's imprisonment for the affair, Peter Paul Rubens was born in 1577. The family returned to Cologne the next year. In 1589, two years after his father's death, Rubens moved with his mother Maria Pypelincks to Antwerp, where he was raised as a Catholic. Religion figured prominently in much of his work and Rubens later became one of the leading voices of the Catholic Counter-Reformation style of painting (he had said "My passion comes from the heavens, not from earthly musings").
In Antwerp, Rubens received a humanist education, studying Latin and classical literature. By fourteen he began his artistic apprenticeship with Tobias Verhaeght. Subsequently, he studied under two of the city's leading painters of the time, the late Mannerist artists Adam van Noort and Otto van Veen. Much of his earliest training involved copying earlier artists' works, such as woodcuts by Hans Holbein the Younger and Marcantonio Raimondi's engravings after Raphael. Rubens completed his education in 1598, at which time he entered the Guild of St. Luke as an independent master.
In 1600, Rubens travelled to Italy. He stopped first in Venice, where he saw paintings by Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto, before settling in Mantua at the court of Duke Vincenzo I Gonzaga. The coloring and compositions of Veronese and Tintoretto had an immediate effect on Rubens's painting, and his later, mature style was profoundly influenced by Titian. With financial support from the Duke, Rubens travelled to Rome by way of Florence in 1601.
Last decade (1630–1640)
The Exchange of Princesses, from the Marie de' Medici Cycle. Louvre, Paris
Rubens's last decade was spent in and around Antwerp. Major works for foreign patrons still occupied him, such as the ceiling paintings for the Banqueting House at Inigo Jones's Palace of Whitehall, but he also explored more personal artistic directions.
In 1630, four years after the death of his first wife, the 53-year-old painter married 16-year-old Hélène Fourment. Hélène inspired the voluptuous figures in many of his paintings from the 1630s, including The Feast of Venus (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), The Three Graces and The Judgment of Paris (both Prado, Madrid). In the latter painting, which was made for the Spanish court, the artist's young wife was recognized by viewers in the figure of Venus. In an intimate portrait of her, Hélène Fourment in a Fur Wrap, also known as Het Pelsken, Rubens's wife is even partially modelled after classical sculptures of the Venus Pudica, such as the Medici Venus.
In 1635, Rubens bought an estate outside of Antwerp, the Steen, where he spent much of his time. Landscapes, such as his Château de Steen with Hunter (National Gallery, London) and Farmers Returning from the Fields (Pitti Gallery, Florence), reflect the more personal nature of many of his later works. He also drew upon the Netherlandish traditions of Pieter Bruegel the Elder for inspiration in later works like Flemish Kermis (c. 1630; Louvre, Paris).
Recognized by his contemporaries as "The Sun Amidst Small Stars" (recalling the famous final line of Dante's Paradiso), Titian was one of the most versatile of Italian painters, equally adept with portraits, landscape backgrounds, and mythological and religious subjects. His painting methods, particularly in the application and use of color, would exercise a profound influence not only on painters of the Italian Renaissance, but on future generations of Western art.
During the course of his long life, Titian's artistic manner changed drastically but he retained a lifelong interest in color. Although his mature works may not contain the vivid, luminous tints of his early pieces, their loose brushwork and subtlety of tone are without precedent in the history of Western art.
This early portrait (c. 1509), described by Giorgio Vasari in 1568, was long wrongly believed to be of Ludovico Ariosto; it is now thought to be a portrait of Gerolamo Barbarigo, and the composition was borrowed by Rembrandt for his own self-portraits.
The exact date of Titian's birth is uncertain; when he was an old man he claimed in a letter to Philip II, King of Spain, to have been born in 1474, but this seems most unlikely. Other writers contemporary to his old age give figures which would equate to birthdates between 1473 to after 1482, but most modern scholars believe a date nearer 1490 is more likely; the Metropolitan Museum of Art's timeline supports c.1488, as does the Getty Research Institute.
He was the son of Gregorio Vecelli and his wife Lucia. His father was superintendent of the castle of Pieve di Cadore and managed local mines for their owners. Gregorio was also a distinguished councilor and soldier. Many relatives, including Titian's grandfather, were notaries, and the family of four were well-established in the area, which was ruled by Venice.
At the age of about ten to twelve he and his brother Francesco (who perhaps followed later) were sent to an uncle in Venice to find an apprenticeship with a painter. The minor painter Sebastian Zuccato, whose sons became well-known mosaicists, and who may have been a family friend, arranged for the brothers to enter the studio of the elderly Gentile Bellini, from which they later transferred to that of his brother Giovanni Bellini. At that time the Bellinis, especially Giovanni, were the leading artists in the city. There Titian found a group of young men about his own age, among them Giovanni Palma da Serinalta, Lorenzo Lotto, Sebastiano Luciani, and Giorgio da Castelfranco, nicknamed Giorgione. Francesco Vecellio, his older brother, later became a painter of some note in Venice.
A fresco of Hercules on the Morosini Palace is said to have been one of Titian's earliest works; others were the Bellini-esque so-called Gypsy Madonna in Vienna, and the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth (from the convent of S. Andrea), now in the Accademia, Venice.