Childhood & Early Life
Anthony van Dyck was born on March 22, 1599 to a prosperous silk merchant named Frans van Dyck, in Antwerp. He was the seventh child of the parent’s twelve children.
Anthony Van Dyck was encouraged into art by his mother who was a very talented and creative embroiderer herself. He left school and began studying painting under Baroque painter Hendrick van Balen in 1609.
Showcasing immense talent by the time he was 15 years old, he opened his own workshop and took up independent painting. One of his earliest notable works includes the ‘Self Portrait, 1613–1614’.
In 1618, he got admission at the Antwerp painters Guild of Saint Luke as a free master and very soon went on to become the chief assistant to the most prominent artist in Northern Europe, Peter Paul Rubens. It is believed that his mentor encouraged Anthony van Dyck to specialize in portraiture along with pursuing work in genres of interest like religious and historical works.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
In 1620, Anthony van Dyck went to England and worked for King James I of England. While at England, he visited London and got the opportunity to study the use of colours and subtle modeling from the works of Italian painter Titian. He returned to Flanders in a few months.
In 1621, he travelled to Italy and spent the next six years under Italian teachers and established himself as a portraitist. Though he spent most of his time in Genoa, he used to travel a lot and is known to have spent some time in Rome, Venice, Mantua, Milan, Padua, and Turin.
He was known to have followed a lavish lifestyle with rich garments and in the company of noblemen. While at Italy, he made paintings for the then prevalent Genoese aristocracy and his works were influenced by Veronese, Ruben and Titian style of painting.
In 1627, he returned to Antwerp and continued making paintings for his Flemish patrons. He remained there till 1632 and during this time received several commissions for portraits and altarpieces. His works include the life-size portrait of 24 Brussels City councilors for the council–chamber. This painting later got destroyed in 1695.
During his time in Antwerp, Anthony van Dyck began working on portraits in oil and drawings in chalk with the aim of having them published or engraved later. The series known as ‘van Dyck’s Iconography’ was initially published between 1645 and 1646.
Anthony Van Dyck’s style was best suited to portray subtle and tender emotions rather than violence. In 1629, he painted the crucified Christ with St. Catherine of Siena and St. Dominic in memory of his father and this work was regarded as one of his finest. By 1630, he was known as the court painter of Habsburg Governor of Flanders, the Archduchess Isabella.
King Charles I of England was an ardent follower and collector of art. In 1632, Anthony Van Dyck painted the King’s sister, Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia. The same year he returned to London and was taken under the court, and given the status of a Knight along with being appointed as ‘principalle Paynter in ordinary of their Majesties’ in July 1632. He was well paid for his paintings creations and soon became popular in England with his numerous paintings of the King, Queen and their children. Many of the paintings created during this time are of the royal family, the court, himself and his mistress, Margaret Lemon.While at England, he improvised his painting style by combining a laid-back and relaxed approach with authority, and this style went on to become popular towards the end of the 18th century. Anthony van Dyck was known to combine informality and formality with ease in his group portraits.
In his paintings, his depiction of the English subjects seemed more rigid and ordinary as compared to his portrayal of people in his Italian paintings. His use of symbolic attributes and incorporation of mythology in his work is also a notable feature in his style.
In 1634, he returned to Antwerp for a short period, only to return to England after a year. While at Antwerp, he was conferred the title of ‘honorary dean’ by the Antwerp Guild of artists.
He enjoyed a comfortable life in England and had employed assistants to support him in his work. In September 1640, he left England for Antwerp with the hope of taking the place of Peter Paul Rubens who had died in May 1640. Unsuccessful in his endeavour, he returned back to England in November 1641.
Personal Life & Legacy
Anthony van Dyck’s luxurious lifestyle and wealth is said to have attracted the attention of many women and he is known to have spent company with multiple mistresses. He made paintings of Margaret Lemon, known to be his favourite mistress. He also has fathered a daughter named Maria Theresa, by Margaret Lemon.
In 1638, Anthony Van Dyck was forced into an arranged marriage with Mary Ruthven in the hope that he would settle down. The couple had a baby girl named Justiniana born on December 1, 1641.
On December 9, 1641, after suffering from a period of illness, Anthony Van Dyck died in London, at the age of 42.