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Pioneers in Digital Research and Attributions

"...the most magnificent portraits of that age."

Anthony Van Dyck was born on March 22, 1599, in Antwerp, son of a rich silk merchant. The young Van Dyck’s artistic talent was already obvious when at age 11 he was apprenticed to the Flemish historical painter named Hendrik van Balen. He was admitted to the guild of painters in Antwerp during 1618 when he was 18 years of age. He spent the next two years as a member of the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp. Van Dyck's work during this period is very similar in style to Rubens, and several paintings originally attributed to Rubens have since been discovered to be the work of Van Dyck.
    From 1620 through 1627 van Dyck travelled in Italy. He was in great demand as a portraitist and it was in Italy that he developed his style that was copied by so many others. He toned down the rounded robustness he had learned from Rubens to concentrate on a more dignified, elegant manner. His portraits of Italian aristocrats are some of the most magnificent portraits of that age. There were men on prancing horses or shimmering armour, ladies in black gowns. He created very idealised figures with proud, erect stances, slender figures, and the famous expressive "van Dyck" hands. He was greatly influenced by the great Venetian painters Titian, Paolo Veronese, and Giovanni Bellini. Van Dyck adopted colours of great richness with jewel - like purity. No other painter of any age surpassed Van Dyck at portraying the shimmering whites of satin, the smooth blues of silk, or the rich crimsons of velvet. He was the quintessential painter of aristocracy.
    Van Dyck was extremely successful during his time in Genoa. It was in Genoa that Van Dyck showed his brilliant capability of creating idealistic portraits of his subjects. At the same time Van Dyck developed the repertoire of portrait styles that served him so well when he was appointed to the court of Charles I of England.
    He returned to Antwerp in 1627. By 1630, Van Dyck was appointed to the court of Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia. During this time known as his second Antwerp period, Van Dyck worked as a portraitist and a painter of church pictures. Van Dyck also adopted the heightened emotionalism he had observed in the works of Guido Reni. During this same period he also did some work with Rubens. Again, many of his works were falsely attributed to the hand of Rubens.
    In 1632 he moved to London and was appointed "Principal Painter" to King Charles I, who knighted him shortly after his arrival. The knighted Sir Anthony Van Dyck was granted a house a Blackfrairs. He painted some of the English aristocracy of the time, but far fewer paintings than are accepted as genuine by most Van Dyck experts. He had a number of assistants that painted under his supervision and nearly all of their paintings were attributed to the hand of Van Dyck through the centuries. The style of Van Dyck became lighter and more luminous, with somewhat thinner paint and even more sparkling highlights in gold and silver.
    He visited Antwerp in both 1634 and in 1640, but returned to London in ill health where he died on December 9 of 1641. Van Dyck was certainly the most influential 17th-century painter of England. He developed a unique style and founded the "English School" of painting. The famous English portraitists Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough were his artistic heirs and follower of his style.


"...nearly all of their paintings were attributed to the hand of Van Dyck..."
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