Sir Anthony Van Dyck’s last self-portrait (1640-41) is a work of huge international importance and the only portrait of the artist ever likely to be made available for acquisition by a public collection in the UK. The National Portrait Gallery is trying to raise the £12.5 million required to acquire and ensure the painting remains in Britain when it is sold after four centuries in private ownership.
Van Dyck, born in Antwerp in 1599, is one of the greatest artists to have worked in Britain. He turned British portraiture away from the stiff, formal approach of Tudor and Jacobean painting, developing a distinctive fluid, painterly style that was to dominate portraiture well into the twentieth century.
From the NPG: “This particular painting dates from the very end of Van Dyck’s life and presents a direct, intimate image of an artist at work. He shows himself fashionably dressed but apparently in the act of painting, the line of his right shoulder and sleeve suggesting his hand is applying paint to a canvas just out of sight. For the present-day viewer it conveys a sense of direct engagement with Van Dyck as an individual, despite the passage of almost 400 years. Within a year of producing this portrait Van Dyck would be dead, buried in Old St Paul’s Cathedral with the epitaph: ‘Anthony Van Dyck – who, while he lived, gave to many immortal life’.”
The painting will be on show at the National Portrait Gallery throughout our fundraising campaign.