Save Van Dyck Campaign at National Portrait London. Really Successful!

Save Van Dyck Campaign at National Portrait London. Really Successful!
Yareah Magazine

National Portrait Gallery and Art Fund ‘Save Van Dyck’ appeal successful as over £10M raised thanks to Heritage Lottery Fund Grand of £6.3M.

Save Van Dyck Campaign at National Portrait London. Really Successful!

Self-portrait by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, 1640-1 © Philip Mould & Co

The National Portrait Gallery and Art Fund’s fundraising campaign to help the Gallery acquire Van Dyck’s last Self-portrait (1640-1) has been successful thanks to a major grant of £6,343,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). This substantial support follows the success of a public appeal involving 10,000 individualsdonating over £1.44 million in addition to £1.2 million from two generous private trusts and £1.35 million from the Art Fund and National Portrait Gallery’s funds. In total, £10 million has been raised to purchase the portrait, and a further £343,000 to support a national tour of the painting (including £150,000 from the Art Fund). The extraordinary generosity of so many individuals and trusts makes this one of the most successful campaigns for a work of art of the last hundred years.

The portrait will remain on display at the Gallery until 31 August before research and conservation work are undertaken. The painting will embark on a nationwide tour to six museums and galleries from January 2015.

The Save Van Dyck campaign originally needed to raise £12.5 million to prevent the work from going overseas, but once the application for an export licence was withdrawn in March 2014, and a revised price of £10 million was agreed, there was an improved chance of ensuring that the portrait remained on public display forever.

The portrait will embark on a three-year nationwide tour starting at Turner Contemporary, Margate before going on to Manchester Art Gallery, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.

Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, says: ‘This Van Dyck self-portrait is very special. It nearly left these shores forever and I’d like to congratulate the National Portrait Gallery and the Art Fund for their tenacity in running such a successful fundraising campaign over the past six months. It’s a superb painting marking the turning-point in the history of portraiture, and as such I’m proud that the Heritage Lottery Fund has been able to dig deep and make an investment of £6.3m in order to help secure it for the nation.’

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘The Van Dyck Self-portrait is a poignant portrait of great significance. We are hugely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund, and for all the public support for this entrancing work.’

Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, says: ‘The campaign to save this remarkable painting has stirred up astonishing public support with some 10,000 individuals donating over £1.4 million to the cause – making it one of the most successful appeals of the last hundred years. Art lovers and museum goers around the country are the real heroes of the hour, helping to unlock the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and other major donors.’

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey says: ‘This is fantastic news. Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and countless donations from individuals and groups, this wonderful picture – a masterpiece by any standards –  will be enjoyed, free of charge, in the National Portrait Gallery for many generations to come.’

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.

Since then there has been a pledge of £1 million from The Monument Trust (the largest single gift to the campaign prior to the Heritage Lottery Fund grant) and a six-figure pledge from the Garfield Weston Foundation, The campaign has also received multiple five-figure gifts from an anonymous American supporter, who has significantly boosted funds at each crucial stage of the campaign.

Van Dyck’s exceptional Self-portrait (1640-1) has been in British private collections for nearly 400 years but was sold to a private collector who wished to take it abroad. The National Portrait Gallery was given an initial three months to acquire the painting, 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 expired on 14 February 2014 and was extended to 13 July 2014 before the buyer withdrew and the export bar was halted on 26 March.

Sir Anthony Van Dyck’s last self-portrait is a work of huge international importance. It presents an intimate image of an artist at work, apparently in the act of painting, his arm 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, makes 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, Chris Ofili, 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’.


Van Dyck’s Self-portrait (1640-1) is displayed adjacent to the Seventeenth-Century Galleries on the Second Floor of the National Portrait Gallery, London.Admission free.


Turner Contemporary, Margate January 2015.

Manchester Art Gallery 2015.

Dulwich Picture Gallery 2016.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 2016.

Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 2017.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh 2017.

As a registered charity, with limited access to public funds and an increasingly expensive art market, the Portrait Fund plays a vital part in helping the National Portrait Gallery to acquire portraits of national importance. To find out more or to donate, please visit or call 020 7321 6645.

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