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Anthony van Dyck (Antonis van Dijck) is one of the greatest Flemish painters. He was born on the 23rd of March, 1599 in Antwerp, 7th child in the family of a well-to-do silk merchant Frans van Dyck. After the early death of his mother he, at the age of 10, was sent to be trained by painter Hendrick van Balen in his workshop. In 1615, he already had his own workshop and an apprentice. In 1618, he was accepted as a full member of the Lucas Guild of painters.
In 1618-1620, Van Dyck was working with Rubens as his pupil and assistant. He took part in the painting of the Jesuit Church in Antwerp. Also he painted such religious works as Samson and Delilah (1620), The Crowning with Thorns (1620), Judas' Kiss (1618-1620), St. Martin Dividing His Cloak (1620-1621) and portraits: Frans Snyders (1618), Margareta de Vos (1618), Family Portrait (1621) and several known self-portraits. Although Van Dyck was with Rubens little more than two years, the older master's style affected his own indelibly.
By his twenty-first year Van Dyck was already ripe for independence. His pride and ambition made it hard for him to stand in Rubens' shadow in Antwerp. He therefore accepted the invitation from Earl of Arundel to London, where he stayed several months. In England he painted Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel (1620-1621) and other pictures. Also he was able to study the numerous works of the masters of Italian Renaissance, which were in the collections of the Earl of Arundel and the Duke of Buckingham. This led him to follow in the footsteps of his teachers Van Balen and Rubens and finish his education in Italy.
Van Dyck left London in February, 1621 and after staying 8 months in Antwerp, he arrived in Italy by the end of 1621. He spent 6 years in Italy, staying mostly in Genoa and traveling to Rome, Venice, Turin and Palermo, studying and copying the Venetian masters - Tintoretto, Veronese, and particularly Titian, whose works influenced him greatly. He earned his livelihood by creating portraits especially of the Genoese aristocracy. The most notable portraits were George Gage, Looking at a Statuette (1623), Cardinal Bentivolo (1622-1623), Lucas van Uffeln (1622), Elena Grimaldi, Marchesa Cattaneo (1623), Paola Adorno, Marchesa Brinole-Sale with Her Son (1626), Giovanni Vincenzo Imperiale (1626). Also he was commissioned to paint some pictures for the Church Oratorio del Rosario depicting St. Rosalia, the patroness saint of Palermo. Other well-known religious picture of this period are Susanna and the Elders (1621-1622), The Four Ages of Man (1626), The Tribute Money (1620s).
In 1627, Van Dyck returned to Antwerp, where he was given a triumphal welcome. He received many commissions for churches and became a court painter to the Archduchess Isabella in 1630. He created an astonishing amount of portraits during his stay in Antwerp in 1627-1632, the best of them are Portrait of Maria Louisa de Tassis (c.1630), Philippe Le Roy (1630), Marie de Raet, Wife of Philippe Le Roy (1631), Prince Rupert von der Pfalz (1631-1632). He also undertook a bigger project Iconography, for which he created the engravings of the famous people of the time: monarchs, commanders, philosophers, artists, collectors. It was published in 1628-1641.
In 1632, Charles I invited Van Dyck to England to be a court painter. He was knighted, rewarded with the generous annuity of £200 and lavished with gifts. Sir Anthony van Dyck was crucial to Charles I: his portraits were designed to support the King in his claim to be absolute monarch. Other artists painted Charles, too, but it is Van Dyck's image of this melancholic, doomed King that is remembered in history. Van Dyck painted 37 pictures of Charles I and 35 of his Queen Henrietta Maria. The best of them are Equestrian Portrait of Charles I, King of England with Seignior de St. Antoine (1633), Queen Henrietta Maria with Sir Jeffrey Hudson (1633), Charles I, King of England, at the Hunt (1635) Charles I, King of England (1636), Charles I, King of England, from Three Angles (1636), Children of Charles I (1635), Equestrian Portrait of Charles I, King of England (1638). Van Dyck become a celebrated portraitist of the English court and aristocracy. In less that 10 years he created over 350 pictures, including royal portraits. His best portraits are Philip, Lord Wharton (1632), George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and His Brother Lord Francis Villiers (1635), Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel and Surrey with His Grandson Lord Maltravers (1635), James Stuart, Duke of Lennox and Richmond (1637), Lord John Stuart and His Brother Lord Bernard Stuart (1637), George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol and William Russell, 1st Duke of Bedford (1637), Princess Mary Stuart and Prince William of Orange (1641).
In 1639, Van Dyck married Mary Ruthven, grand-daughter of the Earl of Gowrie. His only daughter was born on the 1st of December, 1641 and on the 9th of December, 1641 he died in London. He was buried in the St. Paul Cathedral.
In his court portraits Van Dyck established a style of characterization that was to persist all over the Europe for more than two centuries: in his visions of tall and aloof, yet relaxed, elegance, he showed the most subtle ability to bring a precise physical likeness into compositions of fluent and elaborate Baroque splendor. He was in particular a stimulus to English painters, such as Gainsborough, Reynolds and Lawrence.