Two weeks ago I was invited to a Social Conference at the Art History Museum. I love paintings and especially the second floor of this museum, since they have walls plastered by art. It’s like entering a different world each time I go there – the world of colour and stories. Therefore “The power of transformation” a current exhibition, where Rubens’ way of working is depicted, fascinated me.

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) studied human passion conveyed in the poses and gestures of old masters. For this reason his paintings are like photographs. He highlighted body shapes, improved them to his liking and enhanced colouring to convey strong emotions.

Copying famous painters was a firm component of every artists training. It was intended to give the trainee confidence in capturing and representing what was seen. P. P. Rubens never stopped copying artworks he admired.

And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name. – Shakespeare

During my research for this article I found that Louis Vuitton in cooperation with Jeff Koons had created a Masters Collection of bags and other leather goods in 2017. And Rubens was of course part of it all. His artwork “The Tiger Hunt”, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “The Fight of Anghiari” was turned into a bag.

Art as well as fashion deal with the topic of “being alive” is what Jeff Koons (2017) said. But what does Gerlinde Gruber, the curator of the Rubens exhibition at KHM (Art History Museum) think about Rubens and the modern adaptation of art.



Corinna: Rubens chose stories, painted by old masters, and shared his own take on them. He optimised figures made their breasts bigger or arched their backs to make them look more interesting. Would you say, he was one of the first “photoshoppers”? Was he trying to improve a models figure to his likings and to public beauty ideals?

Gerlinde: Although this method sounds like photoshopping, it is a bit too simple to see it like this. Because he changes and rearranged to tell a new story in a wonderful intriguing new way. He improves the model figures to his likings, yes, but he was following the old idea that you need to make stone to flesh when you study a sculpture.

C: Was it acceptable to copy a painter’s work in the past? What did other artists had to say about Rubens’ work ethic? And would you say that his method would work nowadays?

G: The traditional way to learn from old masters and heroes like Raphael, Michelangelo and the Antique was to copy! Nowadays I don’t think that this works, although there are still wonderful examples how you can work with old masters as a starting point, f.e. R.H. Quaytman’s show at the Secession.

C: What is your favourite story painted by Rubens and why?

G: The Venus Frigida, where he sort of illustrates the old sentence that without Ceres and Bacchus Venus suffers cold:

even the goddess of love needs to eat and drink and Rubens transforms a beautiful antique crouching Venus to a really suffering and hence humble Venus.

C: Was him comparing a woman’s beauty to a horse his way of admiration and praise or was it to show that a man’s role was above a woman’s standing?

G: It was a way of admiration and praise, I think.

C: In 2017 Rubens “The Tiger Hunt” was used during a collaboration between Louis Vuitton x Jeff Koons – what makes his paintings so attractive to the modern fashion world?

G: The power of the composition. Rubens knows how to tell a drama.

C: Do you like the idea of taking masterpieces and remodelling them into wearable art? Is it comparable to Rubens’ way of thinking and working? How do you – as an art historian – feel about it?

G: That depends on how well it is done.

C: If you could ask Peter Paul Rubens one question that has been on your mind – which would it be?

G: I would love to have a longer discussion with him. One question would not do justice to his genius


photography: Corinna Stabrawa
location: Art History Museum
Rubens exhibition ends: 21.JAN.18

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  • Reply
    December 12, 2017 at 4:47 PM

    This is an amazing example of bringing art and fashion together. Great job!


    • Reply
      December 13, 2017 at 1:34 PM

      thank you, Tadeja!

  • Reply
    Jasmin N
    December 12, 2017 at 11:00 PM

    What a lovely interview!
    You’ve been doing great interviews lately, keep it up 🙂

    • Reply
      December 13, 2017 at 1:34 PM

      thanks for reading Jasmin!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2017 at 8:11 AM

    I loved your interview and I have to say I am in love with your photography. I love museums so that just set it off even better.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2017 at 8:43 AM

    I loved reading this, so interesting! Your interviews are very good, I really enjoy them. 🙂

    • Reply
      December 13, 2017 at 1:32 PM

      thanks Zana, it’s a lot of fun to get other people’s views on certain things – opens up my horizon and hope yours too! 🙂

  • Reply
    Phaytea's Pulse
    December 13, 2017 at 10:10 AM

    Love interviews that give me new information….I feel like I can refer to this post in a discussion with friends….Welldone

    • Reply
      December 13, 2017 at 1:31 PM

      thank you so much for your kind words! they mean a lot! 🙂

  • Reply
    Justine Spencer
    December 13, 2017 at 10:37 AM

    Doing great justice to be beauty of museums with your photos. Keep up the great work!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2017 at 11:28 AM

    Such an amazing post! I love anything arts related and the way you approach the museums is always fascinating! Lovely interview!

    • Reply
      December 13, 2017 at 1:35 PM

      thanks Helene, I enjoy sharing it with you!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2017 at 7:14 PM

    What an insightful interview and your photo skills? They’re mad. Love it.
    Katja xxx

  • Reply
    Stephanie ReadsWell
    December 15, 2017 at 9:38 AM

    These photos are so cool. Your photography skills are great. I liked the interview as well.

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