British Art

British Art

Van Dyck & Britain

The Tate Britain’s exhibition on 17th century artist Anthony van Dyck presented a thorough examination of the influences, styling, and circumstances that surrounded the works of van Dyck. The exhibition was organized chronologically, beginning with English works from before his rise to prominence, through his work with Charles I and other wealthy patrons, to many of the works influenced by his style. These early works serve as both a benchmark from which to compare his works and as a guide to his influences and the history in which van Dyck painted. After working in Antwerp, van Dyck joined the studio of Rubens, later leaving to work for the court in Genoa. It was there he developed an appreciated for Renaissance artists, especially Titian. These influences would all later reveal themselves in his works.

Each room of the exhibition was painted a different color, but each the same creamy shade of its respective color. The lighting was soft and spotted upon the paintings, but in a way in which the whole painting was lit up evenly.

Prior to van Dyck’s first visit, portraiture in the early 17th century was, as the wall-texts explained, “comparatively linear, non-naturalistic, [and] serious.” Because Charles I was an avid collector of art, he called upon van Dyck to bring the latest fashions in portraiture to England. Van Dyck’s mastery of both Northern and Southern European styles led to his mixture of fantasy and reality to provide idealizing portraits for royal patrons.

These styles converge together most prominently in Charles I on Horseback, van Dyck’s grand portrayal of the king calmly riding a magnificent horse back to its stable. Charles sits up straight atop a white horse in the center, in luxurious shining armor and draped in a blue sash. The white horse makes him stand out brilliantly against a dark and faded background. To the side, a man, the celebrated horsemen M de St. Antoine, holds Charles’ helmet...

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