van Dyck

Dyck, Sir Anthony van (1599-1641). Apart from Rubens, the greatest Flemish painter of the 17th century. He is most famous for his portraits of King Charles I of England and Scotland and his family and court, painted with a relaxed elegance that was to be the dominant influence on English portrait-painting for the next 150 years. He also painted biblical and mythological subjects, displayed outstanding facility as a draftsman, and was an important innovator in watercolor and etching.

  In 1609 he began his apprenticeship with Hendrick van Balen in his native Antwerp and he was exceptionally precocious. Although he did not become a master in the painters' guild until 1618, there is evidence that he was working independently for some years before this, even though this was forbidden by guild regulations. Probably soon after graduating he entered Rubens's workshop. Strictly speaking he should not be called Rubens's pupil, as he was an accomplished painter when he went to work for him. Nevertheless the two years he spent with Rubens were decisive and Rubens's influence upon his painting is unmistakable, although van Dyck's style was always less energetic.

In 1620, van Dyck went to London, where he spent a few months in the service of James I (1566-1625). Then in 1621 to Italy, where he traveled a great deal, and toned down the Flemish robustness of his early pictures to create the refined and elegant style which remained characteristic of his work for the rest of his life. His great series of Baroque portraits of the Genoese aristocracy established the 'immortal' type of nobleman, with proud mien and slender figure. The years 1628-32 were spent mainly at Antwerp.

From 1632 until his death he was in England as painter to Charles I, from whom he received a knighthood. During these years he was occupied almost entirely with portraits. Perhaps the strongest evidence of his power as a portraitist is the fact that today we see Charles I and his court through van Dyck's eyes. It is customary to accuse van Dyck of invariably flattering his sitters, but not all his patrons would have agreed.

Van Dyck's influence on English portraiture has been profound and lasting: Gainsborough, in particular, revered him, but he was an inspiration to many others until the early 20th century, when society portraiture ceased to be a major form of artistic expression. He also painted religious and mythological subjects. However, and a surprising facet of his activity is revealed by his landscapes in watercolor. His Iconography (1645) is a series of etchings or engravings of his famous contemporaries. Van Dyck etched some of the plates himself, and many more were engraved after his drawings and oil sketches.


"Self-Portrait" Oil on canvas. Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.

"Charles I of England" (circa 1635) Oil on canvas, 266 x 207 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France.

"St Martin Dividing his Cloak" (circa 1618) Oil on panel 158 x 171.6 cm - 62.2 x 67.6 in. Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, London, UK.

"Nicolaes van der Borght, Merchant of Antwerp" (circa 1627) Oil on canvas, 141 x 201 cm - 55.5 x 79.1 in. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

"William II, Prince of Orange and Princess Henrietta Mary Stuart, daughter of Charles I of England" (1641) Oil on canvas, 142 x 182.5 cm - 55.9 x 71.9 in. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

"Deposition" (1634) Oil on panel. Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.

"Portrait Of A Monk Of The Benedictine Order, Holding A Skull" Oil on canvas, 88.5 x 112 cm - 34.8 x 44.1 in. Private collection.

"Self­portrait with a Sunflower" (1632) Oil on canvas, 73 x 60 cm - 28.74 x 23.62 in. Private collection.

"Blessed Joseph Hermann" (1629) Oil on canvas, 128 x 160 cm - 50.4 x 63 in. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.

"Profile Study Of A Bearded Old Man" Oil on paper mounted on panel, 40.6 x 32.3 cm - 15.98 x 12.72 in. Private collection.

Text source: 'Webmuseum' ( and others.

Related Artists:

Related Terms: Baroque, Watercolor, Etching, Engraving.


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