The National Portrait Gallery and the Art Fund today (Friday 31 January 2014) announced that they have received over £3.2 million in support of their appeal to secure the last self-portrait of Sir Anthony Van Dyck, and prevent it from going to a private collection overseas. This includes a recent pledge of £1 million from The Monument Trust, the largest single gift yet given to the campaign. A further £1 million has been raised from the public, with more than 5,600 individual contributions received so far from supporters both nationally and internationally.
The campaign began with an initial £1.2 million raised from the Gallery and the Art Fund including a grant of £500,000 towards the acquisition from the Art Fund (with an additional £150,000 offered towards a nationwide tour of the painting) and £700,000 from the Gallery’s Portrait Fund and acquisition budget.
The National Portrait Gallery was given an initial three months to acquire Van Dyck’s exceptional Self-portrait (1640-1) priced at £12.5 million, following a temporary Government export bar (issued on Thursday 14 November 2013) to prevent it from being taken overseas. That export bar expires on 14 February 2014 but may be extended for a further five months.
Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘This is an incredibly generous response from The Monument Trust and from so many people across the country. Every pound really counts in helping to make it possible to keep this great painting on public view. The most common gift we have received from members of the public is £10, which goes to show that gifts in all amounts make a huge difference and continue to be vital in our efforts to save this outstanding self-portrait for the nation.’
Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: ‘There is a groundswell of support for the campaign to stop Van Dyck’s final self-portrait from leaving the country and to put it on the walls of the National Portrait Gallery. Given the achievements of the past 10 weeks, this could turn out to be the Art Fund’s most successful ever public campaign to save a work of art since our foundation in 1903. But the fight is not yet won, and we must continue to fundraise from all quarters to prevent this work from slipping from our grasp.’
18 Students from the Prince’s Drawing Clubs, part of the Prince’s Drawing School, recently visited the Gallery to record their impressions of the portrait which is currently on display on the second floor. They included Daniel, 11, who said: ‘I liked drawing the frame which had great contrasts with the darks and lights’, and Maya, 11, who said: ‘The portrait has charm. I liked the contrast between his face and that background. He had made good colour choices and the eyes were really eye catching.’
The Prince’s Drawing Clubs is a unique outreach programme providing free, serious, sustained mentoring and tuition in drawing for state-educated children aged 10-18. The Clubs were set up by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2007 and there are now ten Clubs across London and one in Glasgow. Spending time drawing from art in museums such as The National Portrait Gallery is not only inspiring for the children but encourages them to develop a sense of ownership and familiarity with our national collections. When drawing from Van Dyck’s painting, students were asked to think about how the artist was trying to show himself in his choice of angle, clothing, colours, frame and moustache.
The painting has been in a British private collection for nearly 400 years but has been sold to a private collector who now wishes to take it abroad. This is the only chance a museum or a gallery in the United Kingdom has of acquiring the masterpiece.
Sir Anthony Van Dyck’s last self-portrait is a work of huge international importance and the only portrait of the artist made during his time in Britain ever likely to be made available for acquisition by a British public collection. Given its key place in British art and history, the Gallery, with the support of the Art Fund, plans to display the portrait both at its London home and, from early 2015, at partner museums and galleries around the country.
This enigmatic portrait dates from the end of Van Dyck’s life and presents an intimate image of an artist at work. He shows himself apparently in the act of painting, his hand raised in the process of applying paint to a canvas just out of sight. For today’s viewer, it conveys a sense of direct engagement with the artist as an individual, despite the passage of almost 400 years.
As well as enriching its present holding of three works by the artist, this Van Dyck painting, would make a significant addition to the National Portrait Gallery’s striking collection of self-portraits. These include works by Reynolds, Zoffany, Hogarth and Stubbs and, amongst twentieth-century and contemporary artists, Gwen John, Barbara Hepworth, Frank Auerbach, L S Lowry, Julian Opie, Gillian Wearing, Lucian Freud and David Hockney.
Born in Antwerp in 1599, 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’.
Donations to the National Portrait Gallery’s Save Van Dyck’s Self-portrait appeal can be made online at www.savevandyck.org
Cheques, made payable to the National Portrait Gallery, can be sent to Save Van Dyck, Development Department, National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE #savevandyck
Donate by text: Text VanDyck to 70800 to give £5