A friend asked me not long ago to pick one of Van Dyck’s paintings and give my appreciaton of the things I favor most. It was a hard task, since I am eternally in love with his mentor Rubens and comparison was inevitable. And although Van Dyck succeeded to distinguish himself through his famous portraits of royal family, I believe he captured the magic of the moment in one of his less known paintings.
Anthonis van Dyck – An English Landscape, 1635.
A fairly small number of landscape pen and wash drawings or watercolours made in England played an important part in introducing the Flemish watercolour landscape tradition to England. Some are studies, which reappear in the background of paintings, but many are signed and dated and were probably regarded as finished works to be given as presents. Several of the most detailed are of Rye, a port for ships to the Continent, suggesting that van Dyck did them casually whilst waiting for wind or tide to improve.
In this quiet little piece of watercolor and gouache, I find those rare quiet moments and recognize, maybe wrongly, an intimacy that is hard to discover in his other “larger than life” works. You can almost imagine his delicate strokes of a brush, longing that pours over a canvas, gentle colors telling a tale of a quiet afternoon, a breeze cought up in the branches of a grove, distant sounds of a harbour…And those sails on the horizon… they are the promise of things to come.