Save van Dyck’s Self-portrait

Sir Anthony van Dyck, self-portrait, 1640-1. ©Philip Mould & Co.

Sir Anthony van Dyck, self-portrait, 1640-1. ©Philip Mould & Co.

The National Portrait Gallery and the Art Fund have launched a fundraising campaign to purchase a rare self-portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641). The painting has been sold to an overseas buyer, but a temporary export stop is giving the National Portrait Gallery the chance to acquire it.

Sir Anthony van Dyck and studio, King Charles I, 1638-9, at Ham House (acquired by HM Treasury 1948, transferred to the National Trust 2002) ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Sir Anthony van Dyck and studio, King Charles I, 1638-9, at Ham House (acquired by HM Treasury 1948, transferred to the National Trust 2002) ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Van Dyck was born in Antwerp and trained under Rubens. In 1632 he came to Britain where he had a transformative effect on portraiture, capturing a ‘careless romance’ that has epitomised British aristocratic insouciance ever since. He worked as Principal Painter to King Charles I and painted the royal family and those close to the court.

After Sir Anthony van Dyck, self-portrait with sunflower, at Ham House (acquired by HM Treasury 1948, transferred to the National Trust 2002). The original of 1635-6 is in the collection of the Duke of Westminster. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

After Sir Anthony van Dyck, self-portrait with sunflower, at Ham House (acquired by HM Treasury 1948, transferred to the National Trust 2002). The original of 1635-6 is in the collection of the Duke of Westminster. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

In this self-portrait Van Dyck shows himself as if in the act of painting, looking at himself in a mirror but at the same time gazing directly at us. The sunflower motif in the frame – associated with Van Dyck – refers to the relationship between art and nature, and between the artist and his patron-sovereign, as a flower who always follows the sun.

This portrait has previously been in private collections (including that of the Earls of Jersey who owned Osterley Park). This campaign is the last opportunity to preserve this picture, so relevant to British art, for public display in Britain.

4 Responses to “Save van Dyck’s Self-portrait”

  1. Mark D. Ruffner Says:

    I look at the last image and think to myself that the lustrous fabric appears to be something John Singer Sargent might have carefully studied. Amazing how that shine is accomplished in so few strokes.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Mark, yes there seem to be clear echoes of both van Dyck’s technique and his poses in Sargent’s work. I wonder if there has been an exhibition mounted or a book published on van Dyck’s influence on other painters? One is even reminded of some of Ralph Lauren’s ad campaigns, channeling the aristocratic languor thing…:)

  3. Andrew Says:

    Van Dyck and Britain exhibition at the Tate in 2009:

    “Artists such as Sargent and De László echoed van Dyck to flatter their ‘new money’ sitters by depicting them like the ‘old money’ aristocrats into whose grand houses they had moved.” – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/van-dyck-and-britain/explore-exhibition/van-dyck-and-britain-7

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Andrew, what an excellent link, thank you. Yes we have lots of eighteenth-century portraits of people in ‘Vandyke’ costume in our collections.

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