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Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599 - 1641)

Sir Anthony van Dyck
Sir Anthony van Dyck
(1599 - 1641)
      Historic subjects, Altarpieces, Portraiture Art Work
Name: Sir Anthony van Dyck
Gender: Male
Place of Birth: Antwerp
Nationality: Flemish
Birth: 1599
Death: 1641
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   Quick Facts
Known For: Historic subjects, Altarpieces, Portraiture
Style: Flemish Baroque
Fine Art Profession(s): Painting

Probably the most influential painter of portraits during the seventeenth century, Anthony van Dyck had both the blessing and the curse to be a younger contemporary of Rubens. Although association with Rubens enabled van Dyck to perfect his own approach to history painting, altarpieces, and portraits, the connection also made it virtually impossible for him to emerge from Rubens's shadow and be seen as the independent genius he most certainly was. Van Dyck's impact on the history of portraiture was profound. He perfected an approach to the subject his aristocratic patrons were bound to favor. In van Dyck's hands they were all portrayed as graceful, self-confident, relaxed, and elegant–as though endowed by nature with the physical and mental attributes that superbly complemented the station accorded them by their birth. A lesser talent would have failed at such a challenge, but van Dyck had the combined fortune of natural facility and contact with Rubens to aid him. Association with the Count of Arundel brought van Dyck both English and Italian patronage, notably that of Charles I. Despite van Dyck's premature death in 1641 at age forty-two, he had set the standard for portraiture which English and many European painters would follow throughout the following century. Bora in Antwerp to a rich merchant, Anthony was apprenticed at age ten (1609) to Hendrik van Balen* (1575-1632). By 1618 he was an independent master and the following year he was hired by Rubens. Two years later, in 1620, van Dyck accepted an invitation from the Count of Arundel to work for the English court, arriving in London late in that same year. Several months later he traveled to Italy, where he and the Countess of Arundel visited Mantua, Turin, Milan, and Genoa between 1622 and 1623. Remaining in Italy until 1627, van Dyck was supported by a number of great aristocratic Italian families including Cardinal Bentivoglio in Rome and the Spinola, Brignole Sale, and Durazzo families in Genoa. His years in Italy brought van Dyck into fruitful contact with Italian art, particularly Venetian painting, and most significantly that of Titian. From 1627 to 1632 van Dyck returned to Antwerp, where he spent much of his time working on commissions for various churches before settling in England late in 1632 as chief painter to Charles I. A supportive and admiring patron, Charles and his courtly circles kept van Dyck busy supplying innumerable portraits and some histories done in the grand manner. After a tempestuous liaison with Margaret Lemon, van Dyck married Mary Ruthven in 1639 and after Rubens died in 1640 he rushed back to Antwerp. There he was warmly received by the Antwerp Painters' Guild. In 1641 he was probably in Paris, waiting for a courtly commission. When he became ill, he hastened back to England to attend the birth of his daughter on 1 December 1641. On 9 December he died. Van Dyck left behind a considerable legacy of portraits and history paintings which have presented refined problems of connoisseurs hip and dating for historians. Isolating the young van Dyck from Rubens, identifying the sitters of van Dyck*s Italian portraits, establishing a chronology for them, and evaluating his later London works are some of the problems posed by van Dyck's surviving oeuvre. For an artist whose facility enabled him to seamlessly and subtly meld person and persona, to emulate and then "improve on" his sources, and whose entire efforts were dedicated to endowing his pictures with grace rather than obvious rigor, van Dyck's oeuvre has also presented the challenge of elucidating those independent qualities which make up his inimitable style. Finally, debates continue about his relative merits as an artist. Some believe he was precociously gifted but not sufficiently dedicated to be ranked among the greatest geniuses of his time, while others believe he is still too underrated. Identifying the work of the young van Dyck has preoccupied a number of scholars who have all been particularly interested in his work with Rubens. Surviving documents identify a collaboration in 1620 on the Antwerp Jesuit church of St. Ignatius, in which it was stipulated that Rubens was to design thirty-nine paintings for the ceiling which were to be executed by van Dyck and other studio assistants. Documents also supply considerable evidence that van Dyck painted cartoons for Rubens's tapestry commissions for the History of Consul Decius Mus, which were completed by 1618. Moreover, a portrait of van Dyck by Rubens (now in the Kimbell Museum, Fort Worth) can be dated no later than 1615, according to scholars. From this and the evidence of van Dyck*s earliest pictures, such as Portrait of a Man (dated 1613, Brussels, Muse'es Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique), modern scholars have concluded that the early biographers (Bellori and Fe"libien) are correct in asserting that Rubens admired the precocious young painter and arranged to instruct him. Moreover, van Dyck evidently matured rapidly from pupil to trusted collaborator who had a preeminent position in Rubens's studio before his departure for England and Italy in the fall of 1620. From approximately 1613 to 1620 van Dyck also worked independently, producing portraits and mythologies formulated on Italian models sometimes studied directly, but often based on drawings or paintings made by Rubens. Experimenting in various styles at once – sometimes working a la Rubens (either for himself or as Rubens's assistant), sometimes adopting other styles, occasionally painting loosely, sometimes roughly, other times with greater degree of finish –van Dyck has often stymied scholars who attempt to place these early works in a logical chronological sequence. Stimulated by his contact with the towering genius of Rubens, van Dyck quickly tackled large-scale narratives and handled them not only with assurance but also with a growing streak of independence. Thus, his St Jerome (dated 1615, Vaduz, Liechtensteinische Kunstsammlung) is still heavily dependent on a Rubens model, while his source material expanded a year later in his Martyrdom of St Peter (Brussels, Musses Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique), which has demonstrable affinities with Jordaens* as well as Caravaggio. * Van Dyck's early portraits had the verve and succinct energy of Rubens, as evidenced in the portraits of an unidentified man and woman, and an elderly man of 1618 (all three: Vaduz, Liechtensteinische Kunstsammlung). The following year, van Dyck already injected a gentle vulnerability, a tenderness of feeling, in his portrait of a family (dated 1619, St. Petersburg, Hermitage), a quality that would increasingly become the hallmark of his mature portraiture. A third essay on the penitent St. Jerome, though obviously still dependent on Rubens, Titian, and Caravaggio (thought to date from 1618, Dresden, Gemaidegalerie Alte Meister), shows the young artist achieving a more moving and emotional expression of his theme. Rubens continued to be a challenge, guide, and model, as evidenced by van Dyck's copies such as Emperor The'odosius Refused Entry into Milan Cathedral (London, National Gallery), which was based on the Rubens picture of the same subject, now in Vienna. In other instances van Dyck attempted to go beyond a Rubens subject to create his own version, such as Samson and Delilah (dated ca. 1619/20, London, Dulwich Picture Gallery), which elaborates on Rubens's version now in London, or Drunken Silenus (dated ca. 1620, Dresden, Gemaidegalerie Alte Meister), which is loosely based on Rubens's example in Munich (Alte Pinakothek). Still another group of paintings generally placed in the last year before van Dyck's departure for Italy share a closer affinity to Rubens's style or that of Jordaens, including his monumentally conceived figures in The Crowning with Thorns (dated 1620, Madrid, Prado), St. Sebastian Bound for Martyrdom (dated ca. 1620, Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland), and The Continence of Scipio (dated ca. 1620, Oxford, Christ Church). More interested than Rubens in moving beyond epic drama, van Dyck charted a double course – on the one hand looking deeper into the human spirit than his master had done, and on the other aspiring toward a style of such grace and delicacy that it transcends, though faithfully echoes, the world of nature. Van Dyck's accomplishments of these ends is evident in Susannah and the Elders (dated ca. 1620, Munich, Alte Pinakothek), which is subtler, finer, and more delicate both in execution and in sentiment than Rubens's interpretation of the scene done ten years earlier (Madrid, Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes). He also spent considerable time producing portraits of leading Antwerp citizens, including artists. Portraits of Frans Snyders* and his wife, Margaretha de Vos, are now in the Frick Collection, New York (and Kassel, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen), while Rubens's wife, Isabella Brant, became the subject of an example in Washington, DC (National Gallery of Art). Van Dyck's Italian sojourn marks a new phase in his development, bringing him closer to his beloved Italian sources and farther from Rubens*s direct influence, though Rubens's own travels to Italy charted van Dyck's path. Still, this period introduced a new monumentality and a sumptuousness mixed with austerity in the best of his portraits. Recent scholars have made considerable progress in identifying the many portraits that resulted from van Dyck's Italian years, though the chronology of some pictures and the identification of individual sitters often remain a matter of debate. His long-standing contacts with the Balbi family in Genoa yielded some of his finest work, including the Marchesa Balbi portrait (dated to 1621/22, Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art, Mellon Collection). Large, majestic, and imposing, it deliberately and brilliantly contrasts a lavish, nearly overwhelming costume and the sitter's face, which manages to compete with her gown through tricks of lighting, placement, and characterization. Van Dyck's true gift as a painter of fact gracefully mingled with fiction was quickly becoming evident – it may be possible that he cast more than casual a glance at the portraiture of Justus Sustermans, who had preceeded van Dyck by a year and was then making a name for himself among the Medici in Florence. Van Dyck's Balbi portraits also include his Portrait of Giovanni Palo Balbi on Horseback (dated ca. 1625, Parma, Fondazione Magnani Rocca) and La Dama d'Oro, also known as Battina Balbi with Two of Her Children (Genoa, Galleria Palazzo Durazzo Pallavicini). Van Dyck's first Genoese visit (late November 1621-February 1622) yielded numerous other exemplary portraits, including that of Agostino Pallavicini (Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum), which demonstrates his gifts as a colorist, brilliantly balancing a vast area of red with the sitter's face. The picture or one like it must have had a considerable impact on John Singer Sargent. From February to August 1622 van Dyck was in Rome, where he may have painted his likeness of Cardinal Bentivoglio (Florence, Palazzo Pitti). Van Dyck's portraits of Sir Robert Shirley and Teresia, Lady Shirley (Petworth, Sussex, Petworth House, British National Trust), as well as that of George Gage with Two Men (London, National Gallery), are also thought to come from this period. His portrayals of English subjects in Italy are notable for his injection of informality, grace, and vivacity – an approach that would influence later English painting. In the fall of 1622 van Dyck was in Venice, where his portrait commissions included two likenesses of the Netherlandish collector Lucas van Uffel (one is in Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art). Several self-portraits can be grouped to this period, including one in the Metropolitan (though it is often thought to predate his departure for Italy) and one in St. Petersburg (Hermitage), which is dated to 1623. Between October 1622 and early 1623 van Dyck may have traveled with the Countess of Arundel to Turin, Mantua, and Milan, making slops once more in Genoa as well as Florence and Bologna, before going again to Rome. From March to October or November 1623 he was in Rome and thereafter back in Genoa, where he remained until the spring. Much of 1624 (spring to September) was spent in Palermo; then he was back once more in Genoa, where he remained–with interuptions, of course – until the autumn of 1627. Just which pictures date from which sojourn remains a matter of speculation. The highly dignified and emphatically noble portrayal of Marchesa Elena Grimaldi (Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art) is generally dated to 1623, while the portrait of A Genoese Noblewoman with Her Child (Cleveland Museum of Art) is dated between 1623 and 1625, as is that of a Genoese Noblewoman (New York, Frick Collection). Van Dyck's portrait of Emmanuel Philiberto of Savoy (London, Dulwich College Picture Gallery) is dated 1624; that of Comelis and Lucas de Wael (Rome, Pinacoteca Capitolina) and that of a Genoese Noblewoman and Her Son (Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art, Widener Collection) are dated 1626. Van Dyck's response to Rubens as a model in these portraits varies – some, like the Grimaldi portrait, are clearly based on Rubens's models; others are more idependently conceived. As a whole, van Dyck begins to adopt Rubens's practice of painting the face so it seems lit from the inside, while his approach to his sitters varies from increasingly relaxed and urbane presentations to more conservative, remote, and sometimes ceremonially magisterial likenesses which were evidently preferred by his Italian clients. Besides his portraits, van Dyck took time to produce a number of histories and mythologies during this period. These paintings often took quotations from earlier sources (particularly from Titian) and adapted them to new themes, as in van Dyck's Vertumnus and Pomona (dated ca. 1625, Genoa, Palazzo Bianco). Among the notable portraits produced during this period are those of a Genoese noblewoman and her son, often identified as Paolina Adorno, the Marchesa Brignole Sale with Her Son, and 77ic Marchesa Elena Grimaldi Catteno (both dated ca. 1625, Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art). A Genoese senator and a Genoese lady (Berlin, Staatlichc Museen, Gem&ldegalerie), if dated to 1625, reflect van Dyck's continued adaptation of a stiffer, more formal portrait style, which his Genoese patrons evidently preferred. Upon his return to Antwerp in 1627, van Dyck was quickly absorbed in commissions for portraits and various altarpieces. In his portraiture, he swiftly adapted to a more Flemish approach – simpler and more direct in its psychological interpretation, as in his painting of Jan de Wael and His Wife (dated 1629, Munich, Alte Pinakothek). But his portraiture continued to be more diverse, as his likeness of Maria Louisa de Tassis (dated 1629, Vaduz, Liechtensteinische Kunstsammlung) demonstrates. This more lush and extravagant celebration of youthful beauty and financial security is many degrees more opulent than the Jan de Wael, while the full-length portraits of A Woman with Her Daughter and A Man with his Son, which are now in the Louvre, hark back to the commanding aristocratic presences he painted while in Italy. And, if modern scholars are correct in placing van Dyck's portrait of Nicholas Lanier (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum) in his Antwerp period, then it is clear that particularly when dealing with an English clientele, van Dyck adopted yet a different approach, ennobling each subject and giving him or her at once a majestic bearing, a noble mien, and an inborn grace, all presented with a kind of energy that is markedly different from his other portraits. Van Dyck further promoted his skills at portraiture with Iconography, a collection of engraved portraits of notable men of the period. Eventually consisting of eighty plates engraved by artists such as Lucas Vorsterman, Schelte a Bolswert, and Paul Pontius, based on drawings and grisailles by van Dyck, the first set appeared in 1636 and was followed by a second, more exhaustive, posthumous edition in 1645. Churches throughout Flanders, including those in Ghent, Kortrijk, Dendermonde, Mechelen, and Antwerp, could boast of altarpieces by van Dyck after 1628. Among the most inspired of these is St. Augustine in Ecstasy (Antwerp, Kunsthistorische Museum), commissioned by the Church of St. Augustine in 1628. Maintaining the verve and fluidity of Rubens, van Dyck nonetheless found his own voice, making his figures less heroic, less ponderous. Their forms are lighter, their expressions more mystical. Based on various Italian sources, most notably Titian and the Carracci,* van Dyck's St. Augustine helped inaugurate a new, more psychologically profound approach to his religious narratives that is evident in such other important commissions of the period as Virgin and Child with Sts. Rosalie, Peter, and Paul (dated 1629, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum) and The Vision of St. Anthony (dated 1629, Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera). Around this time van Dyck was also painting mythologies (some at the behest of Charles I), which reflect his brilliant interpretation of Titian. Among these, Rinaldo and Armida (1629), formerly in the possession of Charles I and now in the Baltimore Museum of Art, is one of van Dyck's most inspired and lush adaptations of Titian (Worship of Venus, Madrid, Prado). Rinaldo andArmida is thought to be largely responsible for inducing Charles I to invite van Dyck to England. In April 1632 van Dyck had arrived in London and became "principal painter in Ordinary to Charles I"; and on 5 July 1632 Charles (following the tradition of Titian and Charles V) awarded van Dyck the order of the Golden Knights. The next year he received an annual pension of 200 pounds. Van Dyck's chief occupation was to produce portraits of the royal family and members of the court, which he supplied with prodigious industry. Some 400 are ascribed to van Dyck for the years between 1632 and 1641. Many, of course, were completed with assistants working in the studio van Dyck set up at Blackfriars. Queen Henrietta Maria, her children, and the king were the subjects of many of van Dyck's best portraits. Van Dyck admirably conveyed Charles's interpretation of the monarchy, using the rich store of models provided by Titian and his portrayals of Charles V. In 1633 van Dyck painted Charles I on Horseback, the ultimate warrior king (London, National Gallery), producing a variant on the theme in his Charles I on Horseback with M. de St Antoine (London, Collection of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II), in which Charles is shown riding through a gateway not unlike a triumphal arch. Charles I Hunting (dated 1635, Paris, Louvre) presents the monarch as the perfect cavalier. His portrayal of Charles's head from three different views in 1637 (Windsor, Royal Collection) was intended to aid Bernini in preparing a sculpted bust. This portrait, with its direct analysis of the monarch's melancholy, pious, and reserved character, has become a touchstone for various scholarly interpretations – some seeing in its gloom the anticipation of the king's tragic end; others viewing it as van Dyck's ultimate visual assertion of Charles's divine right to rule. Van Dyck's portraits of Henrietta Maria were numerous. Perhaps that of Henrietta Maria with Sir Jeffry Hudson (dated 1633, Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art) is the most notable, while his children's portraits include the endearing and tender likenesses of the Three Eldest Children of Charles I (dated 1635, Turin, Galleria Sabauda). Naturally much favored by the aristocracy, van Dyck was kept busy supplying his patrons with portraits. Superb examples include that of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland (dated 1633, Petworth, Sussex, Petworth House, British National Trust, Egremont Collection), which is a majestic extrapolation from Titian. The following year van Dyck was back in Antwerp for a year, and his portraiture again showed a marked change, adapting to prevailing tastes and customs. Among the most striking surviving examples of his Antwerp interlude is his portrait oXJacomo de Cachiopin (dated 1634, Vienna, Kuns this to riches Museum), a haunting evocation of an inner life presented with a sober palette and simplicity of form not generally found in his English work. Back in England van Dyck resumed his habit of carefully staging his portraits and endowing his subjects with the proper physical, social, and psychological attributes to fulfill the aristocratic ideals of the time. Whether it was Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel with His Grandson Thomas (dated ca. 1636, Duke of Norfolk, Arundel Castle), with its evocation of ArundeFs hauteur, his tenderness toward his grandson, his dynastic aspirations, and his love of Venetian painting, or Thomas Killigrew and William, Lord Crofts (dated 1638, London, Leicester House, Collection of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II), van Dyck seemed to know through instinct and his knowledge of Venetian painting just how to present his subjects. Interestingly, van Dyck's portraits of women at this phase in his career do not match the verve, inventive variety, and diverse characterization of his male portraits. Narrative subjects were frequently painted, and when van Dyck undertook them, he produced work of remarkable grace and brilliance. In 1636 he likely undertook work for a commission received during his year long stay in Antwerp in 1634. The resulting Lamentation (Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten) is his last major religious picture and is a masterful evocation of deep and reverential grief. His Cupid and Psyche (Hampton Court, H.M. Queen Elizabeth II) is now considered the only surviving mythology painted during van Dyck's years at the English court. Formerly dated to ca. 1631 or just prior to his arrival in London, the Cupid and Psyche, with its molten sky, gracefully constructed and sensuous yet chastely conceived nudes, and summery landscape, is his last and perhaps his most lavish essay on his beloved Titian. In its antiheroic approach, this gorgeous picture clearly anticipates the development of the rococo. But ultimately it was van Dyck's portraiture that had the greatest impact on Western art. He is widely acknowledged to be the creator of the baroque court portrait, for it was his ideal that remained fixed in artists' imaginations, particularly in England during the rest of the seventeenth and well into the eighteenth century. Works by artists as diverse as Kneller, Gainsborough, and Reynolds are inconceivable without his influence.

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