Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Self-Portrait c.1720 

John Vanderbank (1694-1739)

Self-Portrait c.1720, John Vanderbank
Ink and wash on paper
18th Century
14 1/2 x 13 inches, 37cm x 33cm
John Vanderbank’s technique is distinct among portraitists of the early eighteenth century. He trained under Sir Godfrey Kneller in 1711 and follows in the traditions of grand portraiture that had become part of Van Dyck's legacy to British painting. His work, however, is characterised by a more vital and nervous drawing than that of his contemporaries.

Likenesses of Vanderbank are only known to exist on paper, perhaps the best known example being in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Another self portrait shows an older, fuller-faced Vanderbank, painted at the end of his career in 1738 [NPG] . Although undated, the present work shows a youthful artist, probably in his mid-twenties, and painted not long after 1720 when he founded, along with Louis Cheron (1660-1725) St Martins Lane Academy.

All three works display the same level of rapid yet assured drawing, with particular attention to shading around the nose and behind the ear, whilst the torso is left represented by merely a few quick lines.
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