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Peter Paul Rubens, 'A Landscape with a Shepherd and his Flock', about 1638

Key facts
Full title A Landscape with a Shepherd and his Flock
Artist Peter Paul Rubens
Artist dates 1577 - 1640
Date made about 1638
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 49.4 × 83.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Lord Farnborough, 1839
Inventory number NG157
Location Room 20
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Landscape with a Shepherd and his Flock
Peter Paul Rubens

Rubens has created the impression of a wide-open space by depicting a point of interest in the right foreground – the shepherd watching over his sheep – then using the strong diagonal lines of the river, the road, the edges of the clouds and the raking light to trick our eye. Like the shepherd, we are drawn into gazing out across the landscape, the elevated viewpoint giving the impression that we are seeing further into the distance.

Most of Rubens’s landscapes were made in the last five years of his life, on his new estate in the countryside of Brabant outside Antwerp. As well as evoking a view, his pictures allude to ideas of rural bliss derived from classical authors. Rubens was doing more than reflecting a contemporary pastoral scene – he was demonstrating his literary learning and, by implication, elevating the countryside of his native land to the same cultural status as that of Roman Italy and Ancient Greece.

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