Sir Anthony van Dyck, Lucy Percy, Countess of Carlisle, 1637, Private Collection.

Anthony van Dyck, a Flemish Painter's Impact on 17th Century Britain

Sir Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Katherine, Lady Stanhope, later Countess of Chesterfield, c.1635-6, Private Collection.

Sir Anthony van Dyck, Portrait of Mary Hill, Lady Killigrew, 1638, Tate Britain.


Tate Britain
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Van Dyck and Britain
February 18-May 17, 2009

Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) was the greatest painter in 17th-century Britain. Van Dyck and Britain reveals the Flemish artist’s impact on British cultural life, from the reign of Charles I onwards. This visually sumptuous exhibition brings together some of the finest and most magnificent paintings that van Dyck produced during his years in Britain. It also demonstrates his continuing visual legacy through portraits by artists from the 18th to the 20th centuries, including Sir Joshua Reynolds and John Singer Sargent.

Van Dyck was born and trained in the major art center of Antwerp. He made a brief visit to London in 1620-21 before returning in 1632 to become painter at the art-enthusiastic court of King Charles I. Ambitious and productive, he re-invented portrait painting in Britain, retaining pre-eminence until his premature death at his house in Blackfriars in 1641, at the age of 42. Working in a period of political ferment during the run-up to the British Civil War that resulted in the execution of Charles I, his principal patron, van Dyck portrayed many of the main protagonists of the period. His iconic portraits of King Charles I shaped our view of the Stuart monarchy while compositions he used influenced subsequent generations of British painters.

The exhibition explores the context of van Dyck’s principal English works, examining his innovative approach to painting British elite — a creative synthesis of Antwerp baroque training and study of Italian, and Venetian, painting. It looks at van Dyck’s use of costume and luscious depiction of rich fabrics of the period. It also looks at how he was influenced by types of portraiture that he found in Britain already.

The exhibition is presented with the National Trust which is lending eight works. It features loans from The Royal Collection and private lenders in Britain and overseas. Highlights include royal portraits such as The Great Piece — Charles I and Henrietta Maria and their two eldest children 1632, Charles I on Horseback with M. de St Antoine 1633 (both from The Royal Collection), Charles II as Prince of Wales in Armour c.1637-8 (Private Collection), full-length portraits such as Lucy Percy, Countess of Carlisle 1637 (Private Collection), the beautiful and rarely exhibited late Self-portrait c.1640 (Private Collection), and van Dyck’s so-called friendship portraits such as Self-Portrait with Endymion Porter c.1633 (Museo del Prado, Madrid) and Mountjoy Blount, 1st Earl of Newport and George, Lord Goring c.1639 (National Trust, Petworth). The exhibition includes more than 130 exhibits, 60 works by van Dyck. It looks at van Dyckian works by later artists including Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, Sargent, and Philip de Làszlò.

The exhibition is curated by Karen Hearn, Curator of 16th and 17th Century British Art at Tate, with contributions from internal and external scholars. A catalogue published by Tate Publishing accompanies the exhibition and includes contributions from Professor Kevin Sharpe, Dr Christopher Breward, Dr Christopher Brown, Dr Emilie Gordenker, and Dr Simon Turner.

Sir Anthony van Dyck, Self-portrait, 1640, Private Collection.


Anthony Van Dyck, Charles I on Horseback with M de St Antoine, 1633, The Royal Collection, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II © 2008, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.