Information from the curator, 3 September 2015
In the last decade of his life, acclaimed painter Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641) began a printmaking project that would change the conventions of portraiture. His Iconography, a series of over 100 portrait prints, depicted artists shown on par with the most politically significant monarchs, diplomats, and scholars of their day. Though already celebrated internationally for his work as a painter, he contributed directly to the series, producing 15 etchings with his own hands. In many other cases, printmaking specialists and collaborators such as Lucas Vorsterman (1595–1675) and Paulus Pontius (1603–58) realized prints for the series based on Van Dyck’s drawn or painted designs.
The Art Institute of Chicago is fortunate to own all of the etchings that Van Dyck made, along with several examples of prints from the Iconography designed by the artist and produced by his hired printmakers. Despite the importance of these etchings to Van Dyck’s career and their significance to the history of portraiture—and indeed to the history of printmaking—these works have not been exhibited publicly at the Art Institute since they first entered the collection in 1927, and their impact in the broader field of the portrait print has not yet been fully examined.
Comprising approximately 140 works, including selected subjects from Van Dyck’s Iconography, this exhibition features prints that precede Van Dyck’s career, by artists like Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) and Hendrick Goltzius (1558–1617), and those that follow it, such as portraits by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–69) and Jan Lievens (1607–74), which demonstrate Van Dyck’s immediate impact. Also on display are portraits created various media during the 17th century, including portrait drawings, painted miniature portraits, portraits sculpted in wax and marble, and painted portraits of an intimate scale. Finally, a compact survey highlights Van Dyck’s lasting influence on the genre of the portrait print through works by Francisco Goya (1746–1828), Edgar Degas (1834–1917), Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945), and Chuck Close (born 1940).
A full-color publication of approximately 112 pages accompanies this exhibition.