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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Van Dyck, Anthony


Princess Henrietta Maria of France, Queen consort of England
1632
oil on canvas
109.0 x 86.2 cm
Royal Collection (art collection of the British Royal Family)

This is the first portrait of Henrietta Maria painted by Antoon van Dyck. Henrietta Maria of France (1609-1669) was queen consort of England, Scotland, and Ireland as the wife of King Charles I. She was mother of his two immediate successors, Charles II and James II. Her Catholic religion made her unpopular in England, and also prohibited her from being crowned in an Anglican service; therefore she never had a coronation. She began to immerse herself in national affairs as civil war loomed on the horizon, and was compelled to seek refuge in France in 1644, following the birth of her youngest daughter, Henrietta, during the height of the First English Civil War. The execution of King Charles in 1649 left her impoverished. She settled in Paris, and then returned to England after the Restoration of her eldest son, Charles, to the throne. In 1665, she moved back to Paris, where she died four years later. The North American Province of Maryland was named in her honour, and the name was carried over into the current US state of Maryland.

Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) was a Flemish Baroque painter known as "the Mozart of painting". His portraits, like the music of Mozart, are precise, expertly observed, and idealized variations on established forms. He was an extremely famous European court painter throughout the 17th century, matched only by Rubens.

He was born in Antwerp as a son of a rich silk merchant, and his precocious artistic talent was already obvious at age 11, when he was apprenticed to a Flemish historical painter. He was admitted to the Antwerp guild of painters before his 19th birthday. He spent the next two years as a member of the workshop of the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp. His work during this period is in the lush, exuberant style of Rubens, and several paintings attributed to Rubens have since been ascribed to Van Dyck.
He settled in London from Antwerp, in 1632, as chief court painter to King Charles I, who knighted him shortly after his arrival. He painted most of the English aristocracy of the time. He contributed heavily to both English portraiture and Italian Renaissance Art, and was unmatched in rendering his sitters' psychological world through expression and pose. He is also considered to be one of the most brilliant colorists in the history of art.

Van Dyck set a new style for Flemish art and founded the English school of painting. His style became lighter and more luminous, with thinner paint and more sparkling highlights in gold and silver occasionally showing a certain hastiness or superficiality as he hurried to satisfy his flood of commissions. He died in London on December 9, 1641 and was buried in the St. Paul Cathedral.