Room 21

Van Dyck

Anthony van Dyck, Rubens’s best pupil, was a child prodigy. He was already an accomplished artist by his mid-teens, painting biblical and mythological subjects in the manner of his master, but he is best known today for the grace and exuberance of his portraits. Between 1621 and 1627 Van Dyck made Italy his home. Here he received important commissions from the aristocracy of Genoa and the bishops and cardinals of Rome. Back in Antwerp he was equally in demand as a portrait painter. Like Rubens, Van Dyck ran a large workshop in order to meet high demand, often leaving the less important parts of his portraits to studio assistants.

Charles I invited Van Dyck to London and knighted him in 1632. The artist became the ultimate visual chronicler of life at the English court, and to this day, his portraits of British aristocrats can be found in most major country house collections. Van Dyck’s elegant portraiture had a lasting influence on portrait painting throughout Europe, but nowhere more than in England.