At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell

The 1999 exhibition at the Royal Academy celebrated Van Dyck the Antwerp prodigy, precocious master of the northern baroque, Rubens’s star pupil, a painter of mythologies and altarpieces – not just of portraits. In England, where Van Dyck spent most of the last decade of his 42 years, the demand for other genres was limited but the appetite for portraits was voracious. He became, like Holbein before him, a painter of the local aristocracy. It is that familiar aspect of his work that dominates the current exhibition, Van Dyck and Britain (until 17 May). It includes about a tenth of the 400-odd portraits that emerged from his studio – around one a week – during seven and a half years of court patronage.

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