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The immense, pan-European influence of Peter Paul Rubens’ (1577-1640) work is referred to as Rubenism. In comparison with Caravaggism, Rubenism has however, until now, been under-researched. This is thought to be because many of Rubens’ Flemish followers restricted themselves to simply adapting his compositions, without contributing their own elements.
The roots of Rubens’ international reception came from the study of his work or works by his immediate Flemish followers. His work became known largely through the circulation of reproductive prints. The master himself introduced and encouraged the reproduction of his work. The reproduction of his compositions in Rubenesque engravers’ workshops gave them a lasting influence in Europe after his death. Peter Paul Rubens’ work most influenced his fellow countrymen, who contributed to the spread of Rubenism. The stylistic impact of his work was most profound in France, Italy, Germany, England and Spain. Rubenism began around 1630, and lasted well into the first third of the 18th century.
In a more specific context, the term "Rubenism" was used within the framework of a theoretical debate at the French academy in the late 1600s. This debate divided the Poussinists, for whom drawing and design were the preferred mediums, from the Rubenists, who advocated colour painting instead. The French Rubenists included in their number their spiritual leader, Roger de Piles (1635-1709), Antoine Coypel, and Nicolas de Largillière (1656-1746).