( Originally Published 1955 )
Flemish Baroque painter of religious and historical scenes, but most famous as a portraitist. The favorite pupil and assistant of Rubens, his style was formed by that of his master. Born in Antwerp, he studied first with Hendrik van Balen (1609-12), was extremely precocious-his earliest dated work being a Portrait of an Old Man, 1613-and was already famous when he joined the Rubens workshop (c.1617). He executed Rubens' projects with such fidelity that it is almost impossible to distinguish his hand. His own early style up to 1620 is an exaggeration of the Rubens manner, both coarser and more refined, exhibiting a preference for muddier. tones, broken color, and rougher pigment, a romantic intensity in the treatment of light, and an attitude which is at times closer to Jordaens and Caravaggio, viz., Martyrdom of St. Peter (Brussels). In 1620 he was invited to England by Charles I, spent three months there painting portraits, traveled in Italy for eight months, and then returned to Antwerp. In 1621-22 he went to Italy again and settled in Genoa, where he worked for four years doing such religious paintings as the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence (Sta. Maria dell'Orto) and some fiftyodd portraits, including the Cardinal Bentivoglio (Uffizi). The style of this period shows some influence of Raphael, but mostly the colorism of Titian and the Venetian school. Back in Antwerp in 1627 he painted many religious pictures, theatrically Baroque, oversentimental, and not among his best works, though highly thought of at the time. His portraits showed greater restraint but the color had become less warm and glowing. It was during this period that he executed the magnificent etching series of psychological portraits of contemporary artists and poets. In 1632 he went to England again as court painter to Charles I, achieved great eminence and wealth, lived lavishly, and executed with great speed and virtuosity some 350 portraits, including 38 of the king and 35 of the queen, Henrietta Maria. The Charles I in Hunting Dress (1635, Louvre) is the epitome of the aristocratic, cavalier type which he created and which became the basis of an English style throughout the seventeenth century.