Van Dyck at the Prado, a precocious genius

Combining passion for Art and travelling can be such a pleasure when the cultural agenda is as promising as this year’s! And if in Europe, the small distance makes it even easier… Among the exhibitions not to be missed I warmly recommend the Van Dyck retrospective at the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain until March 31st 2013. The show features more than 90 paintings and drawings and is focused on the early career of the artist from 1615 to 1621, when he was still in his native city in Flanders, hence the title “El Joven Van Dyck” ( The Young Van Dyck). Extremely prolific and precocious, Anthony van Dyck was born in 1599 in Antwerp into a prosperous family.

After studying with the master Heindrick van Balen, Anthony van Dyck soon entered the studio of Peter Paul Rubens and became his most talented pupil, as the famous painter refered to in a letter to one of his friend ( and potential commissioner). While working with Rubens, the young boy acquired his technique and produced more than 160 works including portraits and medium sized compositions as well as around thirty ambitious, large-format paintings. These early works done in his late teens and early twenties ( among which some rare sketches) are extremely remarkable in quality. It is interesting to see his artistic evolution through the show from the very first works, sometimes slightly hesitant and experimental in the depiction of the bodies to the powerful latest 1619-1621 portraits, where you observe how the artist has finally defined his own style, giving his figures a naturalistic appearance, much more contrasted than Rubens’s sometimes idealized figures. The exhibition stresses on the fact that although still a very young boy, the artist had a strong will to emancipate from his glorious master Rubens. It took me quite long to appreciate his style which I used to find  too flattering, too pompous but I really think Van Dyck is one of the best portraitist of all time. He was one of the first of his era to actually explore and extract his sitter’s personnality, adding character to them like what one can also perceive in Frans Hals portraits, an artist Van Dyck reverred.

This exhibition features some of my all time favorite portraits, such as the ones of  Cornelis van der Geest, Nicolaas Rockox, Susanna Fourment and her daughter….and many more.

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Anthony van Dyck, Self-portrait painted at the age of 14-15 y.old

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Suffer little children come to me, circa 1618

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Portrait of Antwerp merchant and art patron Cornelis van der Geest, circa 1620

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Crown of thorns and sketch – c.1819

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Drunken Silenius – 1618?

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The brazen serpent  – 1620

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Portrait of a family, circa 1620/1621

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Susanna Fourment and her daughter – c.1620

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Portrait of Nicolaas Rockox, mayor of Antwerp and art patron – c.1621

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Study of a man’s head – c.1620

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The capture of Christ, Judas kiss – btw 1618-1620

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