Van Dyck and Britain
Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) is one of the most important names in British pre-eighteenth-century art. Born in Antwerp, he was a precocious talent, rising swiftly to become a leading assistant to Peter Paul Rubens, then Northern Europe’s most prominent painter. Van Dyck’s imporatnce to British art cannot be overstated; during the turbulent years of the reign of Charles I, he single-handedly reinvigorated portrait painting, leaving behind a legacy that woud influence later generations.
Charles I recognised in van Dyk the potential to be the perfect creator of the royal image. The artist visited London in 1620-1, returning in April 1632, when he was almost immediately knighted and subsequently provided with an enviable property and pension, becoming the chief court painter. His portraits of the royal family and courtiers, imbued with an understated authority and relaxed elegance, were an instant success. His pictures of Charles especially seemed to represent the kings as both a powerful soveriegn and ‘nature’s gentleman’. His popularity was enhanced by his ease when moving in aristocratic circles, and his talent for glamourising almost all subjects.
In this book, leading art historians, curators and critics explore van Dyk’s enduring influence on British art and culture in the centuries following his death, reflected in a way that eigthteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth-century British sitters wanted their portraits to convey the gravitas and sophistication the earlier painter had mastered so well. Extensively illustrated, this is the most thorough examination ever published of van Dyk;s English career and the influence it had on the cultural life of the nation.