Save Van Dyck! (ctd.)

December 16 2013

Image of Save Van Dyck! (ctd.)

Picture: The Sunday Times

There have been two more heavyweight articles on the NPG's Van Dyck campaign - first, a really excellent piece by Ben Macintyre in The Times [paywall] on Friday, headed 'This portrait changed how Britain saw itself'. Then yesterday in the Sunday Times Waldemar, in his usual engaging style, drew attention to William Dobson's self-portrait (above right), which was of course inspired by Van Dyck's. Waldemar is another who thinks the NPG should have bought the picture at auction in 2009 for just one bid over the £8.4m it made, despite the fact that winning bidder was prepared to go much, much higher. Anyway, these broadly positive pieces are in addition to all the press from earlier this month, even an article in the Spectator, and I can't recall a 'save this picture' campaign ever receiving so much serious comment in the media. The NPG and the ArtFund have done a good job so far.

Dobson is a particular favourite of Waldemar's, and he'd like the nation to own that self-portrait too. He may in fact get his wish, for while at the moment the picture belongs to the Earls of Jersey, the Jersey Trustees have recently been selling works of art (the latest being the unfinished Lawrence of the Duke of Wellington at Sotheby's two weeks ago). Incidentally, I can tell you that the Dobson will soon be going on public display at Osterley Park outside London, where it used to hang until the Earls of Jersey gave the house to the National Trust.

Dobson was of course not the only mid-17th Century artist inspired by Van Dyck, and by Van Dyck's self-portrait. Regular readers will also know that Samuel Cooper was similarly inspired, following it for his own self-portrait in 1645 (below, (C) Royal Collection Trust, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II). Add to this the fact that Sir Peter Lely, Van Dyck's successor as court artist, owned the Van Dyck self-portrait, and it's not too fanciful to see in one painting the very axis upon which British portraiture in the 17th Century, and even beyond, turns.

Update - a reader writes:

It seems that for those of us who don't want another trinket or more sweets for Christmas a contribution to the NPG is just the thing, of more enduring value and free from GMOs and calories.

Update II - a reader writes:

Your citing of Waldemar’s article this weekend with approval is interesting.

Firstly, he says this – the sort of thing you have been very displeased with others for: “It’s a marvellous picture. So I’ll certainly be putting my money in the box. But the annoying fact remains, instead of the £8 I could have put in in 2009, I now have to put in £12. Something isn’t working.”

Secondly, is it fair to wonder aloud why, if Waldemar has always thought so much of this particular painting, he didn’t give it even a cursory mention in his review of the ‘Van Dyck and Britain’ show back in 2009, or express his supposed ‘regret’ at the ‘failure’ of the NPG to acquire it in 2009, via any of the various channels available to him?

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