In the last years of his life, Peter Paul Rubens spent long periods at his country estate outside Antwerp, painting for pleasure rather than for profit. This stunning night scene is among the most celebrated works of that period. Rubens initially included biblical figures but painted them out, making this composition entirely about the landscape.
In the 18th century, this painting belonged to Joshua Reynolds, first president of the Royal Academy, who used it as a model in his lectures on art. The work also influenced British landscape painters such as John Constable.
‘Rubens remained active in his old age and indulged a personal passion for landscape. Landscape by Moonlight, which draws on his experience of the
countryside around Antwerp, has a calm and poetic quality. The little flecks of white paint that form the twinkling stars suggest relaxed and joyful experimentation.’
Francesca Herrick, Public Programmes Educator, The Courtauld