It's hard to understand why The Sunday Times considered something like this to be worth publishing as "art criticism":
. . .Rubens wasn't simply an admirer of innocent feminine plumpness. Like a lot of men with a taste for the failed weight-watcher, he had a thick streak of cruelty running through him. His feelings about women were edgy and confused. In Rubens, particularly in his early years, the taste for the multi-pound nude disguises some very unsettling hungers for sex and violence. . .
. . .My own view is that Rubens was a slobberer ahead of his time. His taste for brutally implied sex and the naked humiliation of women speaks to the modern world on subjects for which there is now a huge audience. Look properly at Rubens, and you're looking at a pretty scary guy. . . .
One could certainly find Rubens's paintings to be full of disturbing images of "sex and violence," but why is it necessary to conclude that such images reveal something "unsettling" and "scary" about the artist himself? His art may indeed be "unsettling," but this by no means constitutes evidence of any kind whatever about Rubens's "feelings," his "hungers," or even his "taste" for anything other than his own kind of painterly imagery. The easy association of an artist's work with what the critic wants to think of as his/her "peronality" is asinine, and it is at the very least disappointing that a publication like the Times would encourage such an association.
Several decades worth of art criticism and education (including literary criticism and education) demonstrating the fallacy of considering a work of art to be some kind of immediate translation of the artist's emotions or ruminations has apparently been entirely supplanted by the idea that art is "expression" of the most direct and superficial kind. The artist doesn't "express" him/herself by creating discrete and complex works of art, but by pouring all those pent-up feelings, unimpeded by aesthetic devices, right on to the canvas or the page. So much for Keats's notion of "negative capability," in which the artist is able to subsist in "uncertainties, mysteries, doubts," or T.S.Eliot's insight that creating great art and poetry is precisely an "escape from personality." Art and self-assertion have become mostly indistiguishable. (And as Eliot further puts it, "only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.")
Presumably, Waldemar Januszczak is arguing that the "scary" qualities of Ruben's art come not from a direct expression of them but as a kind of emanation from his "unconscious." But this is mostly a distinction without a difference. Januszcsak can only render this judgment by generalizing from the paintings he's looking at, and his assertions that they reveal Rubens to be a sadomasochist do not depend upon their being either conscious or unconscious acts. His "true" feelings and beliefs are being expressed regardless. But of course Januszczak doesn't know anything about what Rubens was thinking or feeling while painting these works. At best, he's reducing great art to the delineation of the artist's character, his "soul." At worst, he's using great art as an excuse for making cheap and sensationalized remarks.