Anthony Van Dyke: Radical Portrait Artist


To anyone with at least a basic knowledge of European art history, the works of Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck will be familiar; they may also strike one as traditional in style. Most of us do not know just how radical and definitive van Dyck’s artistic visions were at the time. Today many blue chip portraits on the contemporary market have roots in 17th century Europe, thanks in large part to Van Dyck’s depictions, which influenced his contemporaries as well as future generations. 

An exhibition on view at the Art Institute of Chicago, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and the Portrait Print, offers an opportunity to learn about the work of this artist and his significant role in the history of fine art portraiture. 

Known primarily as a painter, Van Dyck also worked in etching and printmaking. In the last decade of his life the artist personally produced 15 etchings that would become part of a more than 100-piece key portrait series known as the Iconography. These etchings, some of which boldly depict artists in the same manner as, and even alongside, top members of the court and society, are on view for the first time in nearly 90 years. Together with works by various artists from the 16th through the 20th century, they help explain Van Dyck’s lasting influence on the evolution of the portrait print and its significance as a distinct genre. It was Van Dyck’s novel manner of faithfully depicting faces and their unique features and expressions that led to portraits as we know them today. 

Visitors to the show are presented with approximately 140 works spanning five centuries. Featured are artists who preceded Van Dyck, such as Albrecht Dürer, as well those who followed soon after—Rembrandt van Rijn—and then centuries later, from Francisco de Goya, Edgar Degas, and Käthe Kollwitz to Chuck Close. 

Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and the Portrait Print runs thru August 7 at the Art Institute of Chicago. Exhibition curated by Victoria Sancho Lobis, Prince Trust Assoc. Curator, Dept. of Prints and Drawings, Art Institute of Chicago


Top image: Anthony van Dyck. Self-Portrait, 1630/33. Clarence Buckingham Collection.