From Rubens to the Rubenshuis: the museum through the ages.  


Rubens, the Rubenshuis and the Rubenianum: From past to present

After Rubens' death in 1640, his home passed through the hands of various owners. In the second half of the 18th century in particular, some major alterations were carried out. Fortunately, a few decades later, people began to realise that the home of Antwerp's most famous artists deserved more attention. After many attempts, the city acquired the premises in 1937 and converted it into a museum. Its doors opened for the first time in 1946.   

1942 - 1948

Around twenty years after the Antwerp-based curator Paul Buschmann first made a case for it to happen, the idea to create a research institution for old Flemish art increasingly began to take shape. His successor, Ary Delen, referred to this as ‘a Rubenianum’. The historical Kolveniershof behind the Rubenshuis turned out to be the ideal location. The city bought the property and planned to carry out a thorough restoration.  

1950 - 1959

The curator at the Rubenshuis, Frans Baudouin, put his shoulders behind the Rubenianum project and started creating a library and an image bank. In collaboration with Roger-A. d’Hulst, he set up the National Centre for the Visual Arts of the 16th and 17th centuries in 1959. The aim of this is to stimulate and publish research into Flemish art.   

1962 - 1968

Following the death of the German Rubens expert, Dr Ludwig Burchard, Frans Baudouin successfully acquired his extensive library and archive. The Burchard family imposed just one condition: that Burchard's life's work should be completed after his death. That task was therefore given to the Centrum Rubenianum. The delivery of the collection from London in three containers filled right up to the brim marked the official start of the Rubenianum, which at that time was still being housed at the Museum Smidt van Gelder. In 1968, the first volume of the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard appeared.  

1975 - 2013

Almost thirty years after buying the building, the City of Antwerp commenced the restoration of the Kolveniershof and the construction of new buildings alongside. In 1981, the Rubenianum moved into the building and developed up a solid international reputation amongst researchers and art historians worldwide. The start of a long-term collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for Art History in 2012 marked the transition from documentary work carried out using analogue methods to work processes that are carried out online. One year later, the Rubenianum celebrated its fiftieth birthday by holding a study day entitled Picturing Ludwig Burchard (1886-1960). A Rubens Scholar in Art-Historiographical Perspective, which was immortalised in book form in 2015.  

2016 – 2024

By this time, the Rubenshuis was increasingly reaching bursting point and was suffering from a lack of space, comfort and accessibility, so the idea came about in 2016 to link various buildings together to provide an overarching experience for visitors. This was the first step towards a merger between the museum and the Rubenianum, which took place in 2024. The Rubenianum will disappear as a stand-alone institution, but will live on and continue its work in the academic library of the Rubenshuis.