National Portrait Gallery secures Van Dyke portrait for the nation

By Culture24 Reporter | 01 May 2014

The National Portrait Gallery is celebrating after its Art Fund-backed campaign to secure a Van Dyke portrait for the nation finally succeeded thanks to a major grant from the HLF


an oval portrait of a man with long hair and mustache in an oval gilt frame
Self-portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyck, 1640-1© NPG
The National Portrait Gallery is celebrating one of the most successful campaigns for a work of art of the past century as it acquires the last self-portrait by Sir Anthony Van Dyke.

A major grant of £6,343,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund saw it realise the £10 million asking price for the portrait after 10,000 individuals donated more than £1.44 million. Two private trusts added £1.2 million, with £1.35 million coming from the Art Fund and the gallery’s own funds.

The portrait, which was painted by the Flemish painter favoured by the court of Charles I in 1641, was export-barred by the government after it was bought by the American billionaire collector and son in law of Formula 1 billionaire Bernie Ecclestone, James Stunt.

Following the launch of the NPG-Art Fund campaign and in recognition of the public support it generated, Stunt later withdrew his plans to purchase the painting and the original £12.5 million price tag was reduced to £10 million.

It will now remain on display at the gallery until August 31, when research and conservation work will be undertaken.

The painting will then embark on a nationwide tour, beginning in January 2015 at Turner Contemporary, Margate before going on to Manchester Art Gallery, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

Describing the self-portrait as “very special”, the Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Dame Jenny Abramsky, congratulated the gallery and the Art Fund for their "tenacity" in running "such a successful" six-month fundraising campaign.

“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 £6.3 million in order to help secure it for the nation.”

NPG Director Sandy Nairne said he was "hugely grateful" to the Fund and the public for securing the "entrancing" portrait. The Art Fund's Stephen Deuchar said it was the individuals who had backed the campaign who were "the real heroes of the hour, helping to unlock the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and other major donors".

Believed to represent the artist at work, apparently in the act of painting, the portrait has been praised for the way it conveys a sense of direct engagement with the viewer, despite the passage of almost 400 years.

Coming to Britain in 1632 at the invitation of King Charles I, Van Dyke made London his home until his death in 1641. Establishing himself at the heart of the English court, he produced magnificent portraits of the royal family and many courtiers before the onset of the English Civil War in 1642.

His last self-portrait had been in the collection of the Earl of Jersey's family for more 400 years.

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More on this story:

"Groundswell of support" for £12.5 million last surviving Van Dyck portrait to stay in Britain

Art Fund and National Portrait Gallery in bid to save £12.5 million Van Dyck self-portrait

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