Obelisk Art History
The Artists

Anthony van Dyck
Foppish men, elegant women, and cavalier style

Anthony van Dyck, The ArtistsDaedalus and Icarus
Portrait of Anthony van Dyck

Trained in art, Trained in Flattery

Flattery will get you far, and Anthony Van Dyck learned from the best. Van Dyck began painting in Peter Paul Rubens studio in 1613 — he was 14, and quickly became the master’s right hand man.

He followed Rubens’s example in his schooling as well, spending six years traveling through Italy and absorbing the styles and techniques of the Renaissance Masters like Titian and Veronese. Van Dyck took his mentor’s professionalism to the next level as well. Giovanni Bellori, a historian and contemporary of Van Dyke’s described him cutting an impressive figure with fine clothes and entourage:

“…his behavior was that of a nobleman rather than an ordinary person, and he shone in rich garments; since he was accustomed in the circle of Rubens to noblemen, and being naturally of elevated mind, and anxious to make himself distinguished, he therefore wore—as well as silks—a hat with feathers and brooches, gold chains across his chest, and was accompanied by servants.”

Van Dyck was building a brand.

On returning to Flanders, Van Dyck cemented his bold reputation with a series of religious paintings for the Catholic churches in Antwerp, and portraits that showed the sitters as noble, elegant and preternaturally fashionable. Van Dyck was proving himself as comfortable among royalty as he was in the studio, and as they say — it’s all about the connections.

Riding with the King

In 1632, at age 33, Van Dyck moved to London to be the leading court painter for King Charles the First. King Charles loved the arts, and was a powerful draw to many of the great painters of the day. Just a few years earlier he’d brought Orazio Gentileschi and his daughter Artemisia to England, and when Van Dyck arrived he received a royal welcome. Van Dyck was knighted the “principalle Paynter in Ordinary to their Majesties.” He was also given a home on the river in the Blackfriars art district, near the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and given a pension of £200 per year in addition to his generous commissions.

The English court loved Anthony Van Dyck, because he made them look awesome. With a careful eye to fashionable dress and impeccable detail, and a causal ease in posture — Van Dyck’s portraits gave their subjects a look of “instinctive sovereignty”

His success with the court soon required the development of a large studio — where a visitor claimed that Van Dyck outlined the figures and painted only the heads and hands, leaving the clothing and background to a growing team of apprentices and specialists. In this way, Van Dyck built an enormous library of works, and influenced the style of portrait painting to this day. Formal dress, casual attitude, and the confidence of looking like the best version of yourself.


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Reed Enger, "Anthony van Dyck, Foppish men, elegant women, and cavalier style," in Obelisk Art History, Published February 20, 2016; last modified May 21, 2018, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/anthony-van-dyck/.

Anthony van Dyck was a Dutch artist born on March 22, 1599. van Dyck contributed to the Baroque movement, worked in Italy, Belgium and England and died on December 9, 1641.

Moses and the Brazen Serpent, Anthony van Dyck

Moses and the Brazen Serpent

Portrait of a Man with a Gloved Hand, Anthony van Dyck

Portrait of a Man with a Gloved Hand

Study Head of a Young Woman, Anthony van Dyck

Study Head of a Young Woman

The Head of an Old Man, Anthony van Dyck

The Head of an Old Man

Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy, Prince of Oneglia, Anthony van Dyck

Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy, Prince of Oneglia

Daedalus and Icarus, Anthony van Dyck

Daedalus and Icarus

Rachel Wriothesley, Countess of Southampton as Fortune, Anthony van Dyck

Rachel Wriothesley, Countess of Southampton as Fortune

Samson and Delilah, Anthony van Dyck

Samson and Delilah

Henrietta Maria, Anthony van Dyck

Henrietta Maria

Charles I, Anthony van Dyck

Charles I

Charles Louis, Elector Palatine, Anthony van Dyck

Charles Louis, Elector Palatine

Sir Kenelm Digby, Anthony van Dyck

Sir Kenelm Digby

Self Portrait, Anthony van Dyck

Self Portrait


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