Monday 5 September 2016

The last self-portrait of Sir Anthony van Dyck will be displayed at the National Portrait Gallery alongside the self-portrait by another of Charles I’s court painters William Dobson (1611–1646), it was announced today (Monday 5 September 2016).

Reuniting two works in matching spectacular frames, which were in the same private collection for 300 years until the Van Dyck was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 2014, following a major public appeal with the Art Fund, this display provides a rare opportunity to see the paintings together and surrounded by other British self-portraits from the Gallery’s outstanding Collection.   

The portraits will form the centrepiece of Painting the Artist: Van Dyck and Early Self-portraiture in Britain (16 September 2016-8 January 2017.)

Both self-portraits were acquired by the art historian Richard Graham by the early eighteenth century. He is thought to have commissioned a frame for the Dobson portrait to match that of the Van Dyck.

The Dobson self-portrait comes to the Gallery from the National Trust’s Osterley Park in south west London from where it is on long-term loan from a private collection.  

Dobson is said to have copied Van Dyck’s work as part of his training and, in this self-portrait, c.1645, his pose emulates the late self-portrait of Van Dyck. When Van Dyck died in 1641, William Dobson inherited his mantle as the leading painter of Charles I and his Royalist followers during the first English Civil War. His career was cut short however, when, after the surrender of Oxford in 1646, he returned to London and died there soon after in his house in St Martin’s Lane, possibly due to his ‘somewhat loose and irregular’ way of living.

The portraits will be seen alongside a selection from the Gallery’s permanent collection, exploring the development of the self-portrait in Britain, a genre increasingly popular among artists in the Low Countries by the early-seventeenth century, but relatively uncommon in Britain before the Flemish Van Dyck moved to London in 1632.  

Catharine MacLeod, Senior Curator, Seventeenth Century Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘While it was undoubtedly influenced by Van Dyck’s self-portrait and later framed to match it,  this lively, dashing portrait by William Dobson shows his very distinctive style, characterised by broad and vigorous handling of paint. This display offers visitors a unique opportunity to see these works displayed in public together in the context of other early British self-portraits, of which the National Portrait Gallery has the most important collection anywhere in the world.’ 

Among the highlights are the earliest oil self-portrait painted in Britain, a work produced by Gerlach Flicke (active 1545–died 1558) when – mysteriously – he was in prison in 1554, along with a gentleman pirate by the name of

Henry Strangwish, shown beside him in a tiny diptych. There is also a self-portrait of the immensely successful miniature painter Isaac Oliver (c.1565–1617), who depicted himself as a well-dressed and prosperous Elizabethan gentleman with a magnificent ruff.

In his portrait, Sir Peter Lely (1618–1680), Van Dyck’s official successor as Principal Painter to the King, shows himself as a connoisseur, holding a statuette that was probably a prop in his studio; but Lely’s contemporary Mary Beale (1633–1699), a rare professional woman artist of the seventeenth century, explicitly and proudly refers to both her profession – with a palette and unfinished canvas – and to her role as a mother, as the canvas shows her two young sons.

The display ends with a self-portrait by Jonathan Richardson (1665–1745), an artist working a century after Van Dyck, who, like most of his contemporaries, recognised his debt to his predecessor: ‘when Van Dyck came

hither he brought Face-Painting to us; ever since which time...England has excel’d all the World in that great Branch of the Art.’

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says:  ‘This is a wonderful opportunity for our visitors to see the Van Dyck and Dobson self-portraits not only together (and in their distinctive matching frames) but also alongside so many other great works from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries - from the earliest oil self-portrait painted in Britain by Gerlach Flicke to important examples of the genre from Isaac Oliver and Peter Lely.’

Painting the Artist: Van Dyck and Early Self-portraiture in Britain is the second of three displays to be held at the Gallery as part of the three-year tour of the newly acquired Van Dyck Self-portrait. In 2015, it was accompanied by the loan from the Prime Minister’s official residence Chequers, of two Van Dyck portraits of Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria for the display Van Dyck: Transforming British Art. In 2017 a third display at the Gallery will feature the portrait in the context of work by a living artist.

Following its display at the National Portrait Gallery as part of Painting the Artist: Van Dyck and Early Self-portraiture in Britain, the portrait will be seen at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, in 2017.

The tour, Van Dyck: A Masterpiece for Everyone, which started at Turner Contemporary, Margate (24 January - 10 May 2015) before continuing to Manchester Art Gallery in May 2015, Dulwich Picture Gallery between January  and April 2016 and,  until 4 September 2016, at Birmingham  Museum and Art Gallery, is supported by the Art Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund.

Anthony van Dyck was born and trained in Antwerp, and went to work for the great painter Peter Paul Rubens while still in his teens. Quickly recognised as Rubens’s most talented assistant, he soon set out to gain wider experience. Van Dyck briefly visited England in 1620–1, and then spent six years travelling and painting in Italy. Work in Antwerp and the Northern Netherlands followed this, and then in 1632, he returned to England.

Here, he was created Principal Painter to King Charles I, knighted and housed at the king’s expense, and began

producing paintings – almost all portraits. Portrait painting in England in the early seventeenth century was similar to Elizabethan portraiture. Fabrics and jewellery were minutely and beautifully depicted; while faces often had the appearance of expressionless masks. Van Dyck’s paintings, by contrast, with their command of perspective and space, confident brushwork and sense of movement, set a new standard to which his contemporaries and successors aspired.  Artists ranging from Gainsborough to Sargent turned to him for inspiration. 

DISPLAY: Painting the Artist: Van Dyck and Early Self-portraiture in Britain (16 September 2016-8 January 2017)
National Portrait Gallery, London, Room 5, Admission free



Turner Contemporary, Margate:  24 January – 10 May 2015
Self: Image and Identity

Manchester Art Gallery:  21 May – 31 August 2015
Artists in the Frame: Self Portraits by Van Dyck and others

National Portrait Gallery:  4 September 2015 – 3 January 2016
Van Dyck: Transforming British Art   


Dulwich Picture Gallery, London:  12 January – 24 April 2016
Making Discoveries: I am Van Dyck

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery:  28 May – 4 September 2016
Turning to See: From Van Dyck to Lucian Freud

National Portrait Gallery:  16 September 2016 – 8 January 2017
Painting the Artist: Van Dyck and Early Self-portraiture in Britain


Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle:  28 January – 4 June 2017
Modern Visionaries: Van Dyck and the Artist’s Eye

Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh:  24 June – 1 October 2017
Looking Good: The Male Gaze from Van Dyck to Lucian Freud

WEBSITE: Information about the Van Dyck Self-portrait including specially commissioned films detailing a period of conservation of the painting can be found on the Gallery’s website     

PUBLICATION:  A booklet on the Van Dyck Self-portrait (£5 paperback) is available from the National Portrait Gallery Shops and online ( There is also a full range of Van Dyck products available.

Van Dyck Self-portrait 1640-1 Purchased with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund in honour of David Verey CBE (Chairman of the Art Fund 2004–2014), the Portrait Fund, The Monument Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Aldama Foundation, the Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation, Sir Harry Djanogly CBE, Mr and Mrs Michael Farmer, Matthew Freud, Catherine Green, Dr Bendor Grosvenor, Alexander Kahane, the Catherine Lewis Foundation, the Material World Foundation, The Sir Denis Mahon Charitable Trust, Cynthia Lovelace Sears, two major supporters who wish to remain anonymous, and many contributions from the public following a joint appeal by the National Portrait Gallery and the Art Fund.

For further press information please contact: Neil Evans, Media Relations Manager, National Portrait Gallery, Tel 020 7312 2452 (not for publication) Email [email protected]


The Van Dyck Self-portrait 

Van Dyck’s last Self-portrait (1640-1) was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery through a major fundraising appeal with the Art Fund, and with thanks to a major grant of £6,343,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), on 1 May 2014.  It is one of three known self-portraits painted by Van Dyck when he was in England, and it probably dates from the last years of his life. The artist shows himself fashionably dressed but apparently in the act of painting, the line of his right shoulder and sleeve suggesting his hand raised in the process of applying paint to a canvas just out of sight. The broad handling of the paint in the costume, compared with the face, may indicate that this area of the painting is unfinished, or it may be that this is simply a more experimental work than his formal court portraits. The frame of this painting, crested with the sunflower motif associated with the artist, is of outstanding importance and is likely to have been designed with Van Dyck's involvement.

Born in Antwerp in 1599, Anthony van Dyck was an artistic prodigy who worked as an assistant to Peter Paul Rubens. He came to Britain in 1632 at the invitation of King Charles I, making London his home until his death in 1641. Charles I was Van Dyck’s most famous patron, rewarding him with a knighthood and the title of Principal Painter. Van Dyck established himself at the heart of the English court, producing magnificent portraits of the royal family and many courtiers. However, beneath the shimmering surface of the court was a sense of growing unease. The late 1630s were a time of political upheaval and by the end of 1642 civil war had broken out in Scotland and England. Within a year of producing this portrait Van Dyck was dead, buried in Old St Paul’s Cathedral with the epitaph: ‘Anthony Van Dyck – who, while he lived, gave to many immortal life’.

About Art Fund

Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years alone Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. It also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, including ARTIST ROOMS and the 2013-18 Aspire tour of Tate’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows by John Constable, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators.

Art Fund is independently funded, with the core of its income provided by 122,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 230 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions. In addition to grant-giving, Art Fund’s support for museums includes the annual Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year (won by The Whitworth, Manchester, in 2015), a publications programme and a range of digital platforms.

Find out more about Art Fund and the National Art Pass at

For further information please contact Madeline Adeane, Press Relations Manager, [email protected] / 0207 225 4804

About the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)

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NPG 6353: Gerlach Flicke (active 1545–- died 1558) with Henry Strangwish (Strangways) (died 1562)
By Gerlach Flicke,  Diptych, Oil on paper or vellum laid on panel, 1554

NPG 4852: Isaac Oliver (c.1565–-1617)
Self-portrait, Watercolour on vellum, circa c.1590

NPG 4853: Peter Oliver (c.1589–-1647)
Self-portrait, Graphite and watercolour on card, circa c.1625¬–-1630
Given by the Art Fund, 1971

NPG D1326: Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599–-1641)
By Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–-1677), after self-portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyck, Etching, 1644

NPG D1324: Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–-1677)
Self-portrait, Etching, 1647

NPG 2142: Sir Nathaniel Bacon (1585–-1627)
Self-portrait, Oil on panel, feigned oval, ccirca .1625

NPG 6987: Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599–-1641)
Self-portrait, Oil on canvas, circa c.1640

William Dobson (bap. 1611–-1646)
Self-portrait, Oil on canvas, c.1645
Earldom of Jersey Trust

NPG 753:  Robert Walker (c.1599-–1658)
Self-portrait, Oil on canvas, c.1645-–1650

NPG 3897: Sir Peter Lely (1618–-1680)
Self-portrait, Oil on canvas, circa c.1660

NPG 1687: Mary Beale (1633–-1699)
Self-portrait, Oil on canvas, circa c.1665

NPG 2104: Isaac Fuller (1606/1620?-?–1672)
Self-portrait, Oil on canvas, circa c.1670

NPG 6651: Egbert van Heemskerck the Elder (1634-–1704)
Self-portrait, Oil on canvas, after 1674

NPG 6069: Edward Collier (1642-–1708)
Self-portrait, Oil on canvas, 1683

NPG D30437: Anne Killigrew (1660-1685)
By Isaac Beckett (1652 or 1653–-1688), published by John Smith (1652-1743), after self-portrait by Anne Killigrew
Mezzotint, circa 1683-1688

NPG 3794: Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt (1646–-1723)
Self-portrait, Oil on canvas, feigned oval, 1685

Icones Principum Virorum
© Trustees of the British Museum.

NPG D30418: Nicolas de Largillière (1656-–1746) and his family
By Isaac Beckett (1652 or 1653-16–88), published by John Smith (1652-1743), after self-portrait by Nicolas de Largillière
Mezzotint, 1686

NPG D4869: William Wissing (1657–-1687)
By John Smith (1652–-1743), after self-portrait by William Wissing
Mezzotint, 1687

NPG D3070: Abraham Danielzsoon Hondius (de Hont or de Hond) (c.1631-16–91)
By and published by John Smith (1652–-1743), after self-portrait by Abraham Danielzsoon Hondius (de Hont or de Hond)
Mezzotint, 1689

NPG 3822: Michael Dahl (1659-–1743)
Self-portrait, Oil on canvas, 1691

NPG D11495: Godfried Schalcken (1643-–1706)
by and published by John Smith (1652–-1743), after self-portrait by Godfried Schalcken
Mezzotint, 1694 (1694)

NPG 1880: Edward Gibson (1668/9-–1701)
Self-portrait, Chalk, 1696

NPG D4679: Thomas Murray (1663-–1735)
by and published by John Smith (1652-–1743), after self-portrait by Thomas Murray
Mezzotint, 1696

NPG D3523: John Lambert (c.1640-–1701)
by John Smith (1652-–1743), after self-portrait by John Lambert
Mezzotint, 1697

NPG 2890: Antonio Verrio (1639?-?–1707)
Self-portrait, Oil on canvas, feigned oval, circa c.1700

NPG D1340: John Smith (1652-–1743) holding print of his of Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt
Self-portrait,  Mezzotint, 1716 (1696)

NPG 5699: Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675–-1741)
Self-portrait, Oil on canvas, circa c.1717

NPG 706: Jonathan Richardson (1665-–1745)
Self-portrait, Oil on canvas, 1729