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Anthony Van Dyck

Flemish Painter

Anthony Van Dyck Photo
Movements and Styles: The Baroque, Dutch Golden Age

Born: March 22, 1599 - Antwerp, Belgium

Died: December 9, 1641 - London, England

Peter Paul Rubens was renowned throughout Flanders when there appeared in his school in Antwerp a young man possessed of such noble generosity of manners and so fine a talent for painting that he gave every indication that he would bring it distinction and add splendor to the dignity and excellence to which the master had raised his profession. This was Anthony van Dyck, born in the same city in the year 1599.

Giovanni Pietro Bellori

Summary of Anthony Van Dyck

One of the most important painters of the 17th century, Anthony Van Dyck revolutionized portrait painting in Britain, moving it away from the stiff and formal conventions to a more relaxed and fluid aesthetic. He is best known for his elegant and, often intimate, paintings of European aristocracy, particularly Charles I of England and his court and through these he became the leading influence on portrait painting in Britain over the next 200 years, directly inspiring other famous portraitists such as Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. Van Dyck also played a role in helping to establish the Baroque movement. His religious and mythological scenes feature dramatic compositions alongside a very human sense of naturalism and intimacy. In taking this approach he rejected the influence of classical painting and sculpture even when this meant moving beyond the techniques of his mentor Peter Paul Rubens.

Key Ideas

The artist often worked with bold hues, applying his paint quickly with loose and fluid brushstrokes. This is particularly apparent in his depiction of fabric and Van Dyck succeeded in capturing the sense of movement in clothing in a way few painters had before. Clothing became particularly integral to his English portraits and he shows a preference for flowing, informal wear as well as being one of the first portraitists to include exotic and fantasy dress in his work.
Van Dyck introduced many new types of portraiture to Britain including: groups of children without their parents, double portraits showing friends or siblings, powerful men attended by their secretaries and images of the ruler on horseback. Although some of these ideas drew on the work of artists such as Titian, many of these novel compositions were pioneered by Van Dyck himself as he sought to expand the genre.
Van Dyck's portraits were rendered with an unprecedented level of informality, although he did not lose sight of the importance of conveying the wealth and authority of his aristocratic sitters. His images flattered those he portrayed but he still managed to capture the essence of them, conveying elements of their personality through his nuanced use of expression, color and posture.
Anthony Van Dyck Photo

Anthony Van Dyck was born, the seventh of 12 children, into a wealthy middle-class family in Antwerp; his father Franchois Van Dyck worked as a silk merchant. Van Dyck came from a family of artists including his paternal grandfather and his mother Maria Cuyper, who died when he was only eight years old and was a skilled embroiderer.

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