Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens
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Peter Paul Rubens
The Death of Silvia's Stag, ca. 1638
Oil on panel, 23.2 x 52.6 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art: John G. Johnson Collection, 1917, inv. J#663





Peter Paul Rubens
Clytie Grieving, 1636
Oil on marouflaged panel, 15.6 x 14.8 cm (painted surface: 14 x 13.3 cm)
Private collection

Teacher Resources


Rubens (1577-1640) was a man of broad talents and interests; he was immensely successful as a diplomat, entrepreneur, and artist in service to powerful patrons across Europe. The lesson plans below are aligned with National Standards in Visual Arts, Social Studies and Language Arts for Grades 6-12.

Capturing the Story :: Language Arts :: Grades 9-12

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Many of Rubens's oil sketches and paintings depict historical and mythological stories. As a classics scholar, Rubens was familiar with the ancient Roman poet Virgil. In his oil sketch The Death of Silvia's Stag, Rubens captures a scene from Virgil's Aeneid in which Aeneas's son Ascanius wounds Silvia's pet stag and trouble ensues. In this lesson, students will participate in a focused Reading Art activity looking at Rubens's oil sketch The Death of Silvia's Stag and will then read the corresponding portion of the Aeneid. Students will write a critical response on whether they think Rubens accurately depicted the scene as written by Virgil.


Recording History with Rubens :: Social Studies :: Grades 9-12
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Rubens was a master at recording history. In many of his paintings he told stories of the ancient Greeks and Romans or of events that occurred during his own lifetime. In this lesson students will work in collaborative teams. Students will participate in a focused looking activity with several of Rubens's historical scene oil sketches and write a research paper detailing the scene depicted.


Rubens's Metamorphoses :: Language Arts :: Grades 6-8
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Many of Rubens's oil sketches and paintings depict mythological stories. Rubens was a great lover of the classics, so it is certain that he was very familiar with the ancient Roman poet Ovid. In his oil sketch Clytie Grieving, Rubens captures a powerful scene from Ovid's Metamorphoses entitled "The Story of Leucothoe and the Sun."

In this lesson, students will participate in a focused Reading Art activity looking at Rubens's oil sketch Clytie Grieving. Students will then read the portion of the Metamorphoses that tells the story of Clytie. As a culminating activity, students will write a myth of their own. Students will choose one powerful moment from their poem and illustrate it, as Rubens did with Clytie Grieving.


On the Road with Rubens :: Social Studies :: Grades 6-8
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Throughout his life, Rubens traveled extensively as an artist and a diplomat. On his travels, Rubens came in contact with various cultures and witnessed several historical events. In this lesson, students will explore each of the cities in which Rubens either lived or visited. In doing so, students will discover the history and cultural environment that Rubens experienced while in each city. Collaborative student teams will create travel brochures for each of the cities.


Patron, Master Artist, and Apprentice: A Symbiotic Relationship :: Visual Arts :: Grades 6-12
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While other artists used pen and ink for their preparatory drawings, Rubens more often used oil paint and panel. These preparatory paintings are called oil sketches or modelli. A master of a large studio, Rubens would often paint an oil sketch for a patron, gain approval, and then pass this sketch on to an assistant for the creation of the final painting. Rubens would then come in at the final stages and add his own finishing touches.

In this lesson, collaborative student teams will take on the roles of patron, master artist (Rubens), and apprentice. Each team will gain insight into the process that Rubens and members of his studio went through to create a painting for a given patron. Each team will create a portrait that reflects their knowledge and understanding of the process.




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