Tour: Sir Anthony Van Dyck« back to gallery
Anthony van Dyck, a true genius at portraiture, revealed the aspirations of his sitters. He often flatteringly elongated his subjects and portrayed them sharply from below to enhance their stature. With elaborate settings, symbolic accessories, and suggestions of movement, Van Dyck made his sitters seem at once grand and alive, inaugurating a style of formal portraiture that is still emulated today. Van Dyck's elegant likenesses were sought eagerly in the Low Countries as well as in Italy and England, where he was knighted. His mythological and religious scenes were also greatly admired and profoundly influenced later generations of artists.
As the fourteen-year-old son of a wealthy textile merchant, Van Dyck entered the studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Europe's most distinguished artist. The precociously talented Van Dyck quickly became Rubens' most valued assistant, all the while painting portraits as well as religious and mythological pictures on his own.
After a short stay in England, Van Dyck went to Italy in 1621. He traveled widely but was most deeply affected by the dramatic works of Titian and Veronese that he saw in Venice. Van Dyck made Genoa his second home, decorating the patricians' lavish palaces with religious paintings and portraits that conveyed the sitters' prominence.
After six years in Italy, Van Dyck returned to Flanders as an artist with an international reputation. Religious paintings were in demand in Antwerp, a fervently Catholic city that was a stronghold of the Counter-Reformation.
In London on 5 July 1632, Charles I knighted Van Dyck as "principalle Paynter in Ordinary to their Majesties." For the British court, Sir Anthony van Dyck created works that conveyed the king's role as an absolute monarch. On two occasions, the celebrated artist received royal permission to return to the Continent. Van Dyck died in London, only forty-two years old, in 1641; the next year saw the stirrings of the English Civil War.« back to gallery