An Intermingling of Man and Nature in Artwork by Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens created the piece Landscape with the Château Steen in 1636 with oil on a canvas. He was well known for his creation of landscape art during the Baroque period. However I feel that, in particular, this piece has an odd sort of “intermingling” about it.

Landscape with the Château Steen

A highly detailed version can be found here

In this work, we can see that the area that Paul Rubens is painting–a land outside of Antwerp, Belgium–is mostly unpopulated. The only place that easily gives rise to the idea of humanity is the left side of the piece, where many members of the human race can be found working or riding along a road that leads to the Château de Steen, a manor that Peter Paul Rubens himself bought in order to rest and relax. The estate was large, covering what seems to be a large portion of what Rubens has painted above.

I feel that Rubens painted this scene, along with many others based in the estate of Château de Steen, because of the personal connection he felt with such an intimately naturalistic part of his country. The estate, his manor and roads, reach just to the edge of an area that mostly lacks any sort of building or sign of civilization; way off in the distance, however, the city of Antwerp can be seen. Rubens was so infatuated with landscape art that he must have purposefully bought such an estate to be on the edge of a large area of relatively unpopulated land (while still being able to easily access his city, his civilization, when he wanted). His paintings of this place, then, seem to just be an extension of his love for the wild that he just can’t get close enough to.

That intermingling I was talking about earlier stems from this. That point at the edge of civilization, where man meets wild, seems to collide. The manor and the road reach out into the wilderness, but beyond that lies even more civilization in the form of the city. It seems as though humanity has taken over the area, after close examination. However, there are many wild animals in the right side of the painting, and a hunter with a gun and dog on the right, sneaking up on the unsuspecting birds. This act of hunting is an act that makes man feel just a little bit closer to the wilderness that he feels an ancient connection with. The hunter and the dog reflect that bond with nature, and immediately to the right of these men and the birds, is a pasture where cows are grazing and people stand right along side them. I feel as if this piece may possibly be commenting on the fact that humanity and nature can work side by side, and that man doesn’t have to be “seperate” from the wild, but… maybe, work alongside each other–to be one and the same.

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