Anthony Van Dyck: A Life

Robin Blake, Author
Robin Blake, Author Ivan R. Dee Publisher $30 (447p) ISBN 978-1-56663-282-9
Reviewed on: 01/03/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-1-56663-786-2
Open Ebook - 480 pages - 978-1-4617-1826-0
Hardcover - 420 pages - 978-0-09-479720-8
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Famous for his so-called ""swagger portraits"" of 17th-century European noblemen, Van Dyck (1599-1641) is most often seen as a courtier interested only in flattering the rich and famous of the baroque era. For the artist's quadricentennial last year, British author Blake (Mind Over Medicine; Fat Man's Shadow) produced this more sympathetic life of the painter, now published in the U.S., recasting the relatively few facts that are known about the painter's life. The book is divided into three sections based on the artist's first name as it changed with his locale: early years in Antwerp as Antoon; apprentice years in Italy as Antonio; and finally England, where Van Dyck became Sir Anthony, a commercial and artistic success painting the Stuarts. Blake is not an art historian, and his book often goes out on speculative limbs, particularly in positing romantic relationships for Van Dyck with models, for which definitive documentation does not exist. He relies heavily on secondary sources, but chooses them well, making for a lively if sometimes overly romantic narrative of the artist among the fabulously wealthy and powerful, reaching a sad climax when Van Dyck dies (of what remains unknown) just as his young wife gives birth to their first child. The bibliography helpfully lists ISBNs whenever possible, and includes the address of Blake's personal Web site devoted to Van Dyck (www.vandyck.co.uk) as well as those of numerous sites where photos of the artist's work may be seen. Scholars, however, would be better served by Christopher Brown's less excitable study. 3 inserts of b&w reproductions. (Apr.)
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