Artist biography

Dutch painter, draughtsman and collector, active in England. By a combination of ability and good fortune, he rapidly established himself in mid 17th-century London as the natural successor in portrait painting to Anthony van Dyck. Between van Dyck's death in 1641 and the emergence of William Hogarth in the 1730s, Lely and his successor, Godfrey Kneller, were the leading portrait painters in England. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Lely dominated the artistic scene, and his evocation of the court of Charles II is as potent and enduring as was van Dyck's of the halcyon days before the English Civil War. Although Lely's reputation was seriously damaged by portraits that came from his studio under his name but without much of his participation, his development of an efficient studio practice is of great importance in the history of British portrait painting. The collection of pictures, drawings, prints and sculpture he assembled was among the finest in 17th-century England after the dispersal of the legendary royal collections.

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