Events Calendar
Apr 3
10:30 - 12:30
Van Dyck and the Court of Charles I
short courses

Date: 3 April 2019

Study morning: Wednesday 10.30 – 12.30

Course code: 18TON371

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Anthony van Dyck replaced Daniel Mytens as official royal painter from 1632 until his death in 1641. At a time when Charles I was ruling without Parliament, discover how van Dyck played an important role in royal propaganda with his portraits of the king, his queen Henrietta Maria and his growing family.

Charles I, inspired by the example of his father James I, replaced Daniel Mytens as chiefroyal portraitist by Anthony van Dyck in 1632. Honours were heaped on him: a knighthood, prestigious accommodation at Blackfriars and regular, well remunerated commissions.Charles, who ruled without Parliament from 1629 to 1640, wanted a painter to project himas an absolute ruler and benign monarch. Thus he followed his fellow Netherlander Sir Peter Paul Rubens, who had taught van Dyck and offered the example of the ceiling of the Banqueting House in Whitehall as a shrine to James I, Charles's father.Until his death in 1641 van Dyck indulged Charles's whims, and executed a series of masterpieces. There were portraits of Charles alone, including the famous triple portrait, which assisted the Italian sculptor Bellini in producing a bust of the king, and several equestrian pictures: Charles in the hunting field and alone on horseback (one such work shows Charles resembling the Emperor Charles V in Titian's famous painting of 1548).

There were also representations of the king and queen together, and of the royal children-with or without their parents.How far then should we see van Dyck in the context of the time? How much did his work pander to Charles's needs during the "Personal Rule"? And how far should we see him as part of a continuum of royal artists? We will also consider how much he owed his style to Mytens and Holbein, and how Lely, Kneller, Reynolds and Gainsborough followed and acknowledged their debt to him.

Recommended reading

Hearn, Karen (ed), Van Dyck and Britain (Tate Britain, 2009)

Millar, Oliver, Van Dyck in England. (National Portrait Gallery, 1982) 

Sharpe, Kevin, The Personal Rule of Charles l. (Yale University Press, 1992)

Additional information

This course is suitable for all, no prior knowledge is required. It allows you to spend time exploring a subject for interest, among like-minded people, without formal assessment. 

Intended learning outcomes

  • An understanding of the political context of van Dyck's work in England (1632-1641).
  • The ability to identify and to comment on detail within the portraits presented.
  • An understanding of the place of van Dyck in a long tradition of English royal portraiture.

    About the tutor

    Edward Towne graduated in European Studies from the University of East Anglia, and later achieved a PGCE from Cambridge, an MA in Early Modern English History from the University of London, and MSt in Twentieth Century British History from the University of Oxford. His professional career was spent teaching History in state and independent Secondary Schools, finally as Head of the History Department. Currently, Edward lectures independently to adults in a variety of organisations, and acts as a reviewer and tour leader on historical topics.


    United Kingdom



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