Van Dyck & Britain
Karen Hearn (Ed.)
Tate Publishing, London, 2009
Van Dyck first came to Britain in 1620 to work for James I. Charles I recognised in van Dyck the potential to be the perfect creator of the royal image. The painter returned to London in April 1632 and was almost immediately knighted and provided with an enviable property and pension, becoming the chief painter of the court. His portraits of the royal family and courtiers, imbued with an understated authority and relaxed elegance, were an instant success. His pictures of Charles especially seemed to represent the king as both a powerful sovereign and ‘nature’s gentleman’. His popularity stemmed from his ease when moving in aristocratic circles, and his talent for flattering almost all subjects.
As well as van Dyck’s years in England, this book explores his enduring influence on British art and culture in the centuries following his death, reflected in the way eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British sitters wanted their portraits to convey the gravitas and sophistication the earlier painter had mastered so well.