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.
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.
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.