Anthony Van Dyck

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Van Dyck, Anthony


Born Mar. 22, 1599, in Antwerp: died Dec. 9, 1641, in London. Flemish painter.

Van Dyck was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. From 1609 he studied with H. van Balen, and in 1615-16 he already had his own workshop where, with other young artists, he painted the Heads of Apostles series. Van Dyck began painting portraits at a young age (the portrait of J. Vermeulen, 1616, State Museum, Vaduz). He also painted pictures on religious and mythological subjects (Crucifixion of St. Peter, circa 1615-17, Museum of Ancient Art, Brussels; Jupiter and Antiope, circa 1617-18, Fine Arts Museum, Ghent). About 1618-20 he was P. P. Rubens’ assistant and was greatly influenced by his sanguine and luscious handling of pigment. While bringing diversity to the images and methods developed by Rubens, van Dyck infused his models with more grace and individuality (John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, 1618, Picture Gallery, Berlin-Dahlem). At the end of 1620 and the beginning of 1621, van Dyck worked at the court of King James I in England, later returning to Antwerp. This period’s paintings (family portrait, circa 1620, Hermitage, Leningrad; portrait of F. Snyders and his wife, Picture Gallery, Kassel; St. Martin, Saint Martin’s Church, Zaventem) brought the artist’s strivings for spiritual grace and nobility in his images and his sensitivity to the unique nature of each sitter’s emotional and intellectual makeup. From the end of 1621, van Dyck lived in Italy (mainly in Genoa). At this time, he developed and brought to perfection a type of formal baroque portrait in which the sitter’s pose, bearing, and gestures are given prominence (portrait of Cardinal G. Bentivoglio, circa 1623, Palazzo Pitti, Florence). The colorist influence of the Venetian school is discernible in a whole gallery of brilliant formal portraits of Genoese nobles painted by van Dyck in a grand manner, in beautiful, rich dark tones, against a splendid background and furnishings (double portraits of an old Genoa resident and his wife, Picture Gallery, Berlin-Dahlem; Marchese A. G. Brignole-Sale and his wife Paolina Adorno, Gallery Palazzo Rosso, Genoa; portrait of a lady and a little girl, Museum of Ancient Art, Brussels). At the same time, van Dyck created extremely expressive images of highly endowed intellectuals and artists (portrait of the sculptor F. Duquesnoy, circa 1622, Museum of Ancient Art, Brussels; portrait of a man, circa 1623, Hermitage, Leningrad). From the end of 1627 until 1632, van Dyck again lived in Antwerp, and in 1630 he became court painter to Archduchess Isabella. This was the crowning period of van Dyck’s creative genius when he was able to achieve in his formal portraits an organic fusion of individual psychological characterization with dignified representation (portrait of Maria Louisa de Tassis, Liechtenstein Gallery, Vienna) and to reveal in intimate portraits (the painter P. Snayers, Old Pinacotheca, Munich; a series of etchings entitled Iconography) the richness of his contemporaries’ inner lives. Less varied, although at times very effective, are compositions on religious and mythological themes (Madonna del Rosario, begun in 1624, Oratorio del Rosario, Palermo; Stopover on the Way to Egypt, late 1620’s, Old Pinacotheca, Munich). From 1632, van Dyck worked in London as court painter to Charles I and painted many portraits of the king (Charles I at the Hunt, circa 1635, Louvre, Paris), his family (The Children of Charles /, 1637, Windsor Castle) and the nobles (portraits of P. Wharton, National Gallery of Art, Washington; J. Stuart, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); he stressed the refinement of poses and color harmonies and the aristocratic bearing of the English nobility, whom he regarded as representatives of a refined spiritual culture. In van Dyck’s last works, elegance and grace began to be obtrusive and to encroach on characterization, while the color became dry and strident; the elegant aristocratic portrait was reduced to a conventional and depersonalized standard, which soon thereafter came to dominate court painting in many countries.


Lisenkov, E. G. Van Deik. Leningrad, 1926.
[Smol’skaia, N. F.] Antonis van Deik. Moscow-Leningrad, 1963.
Glück, G. Antonis van Dyck: Des Meisters Gemälde, 2nd ed. Stuttgart-Berlin, 1931.
Puyvelde, L. van. Van Dyck. Brussels-Amsterdam, 1950.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.