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Jan Wyck c.1645-1700
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Jan Wyck c.1645-1700

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Elegant company and their horses in front of a country house, preparing to leave for hawking

Oil painting on canvas 57 x 95 cm in its period carved giltwood frame

Signed on the plinth lower right descent in the family of Joseph Arkwright until 2013.

Jan Wyck was born in Haarlem, the son, and subsequently pupil, of the painter Thomas (van) Wyck (c.1616–1677). Wyck made his name in England as a specialist at painting horses in battle and hunting scenes, topographical and classical landscapes, and portraits of people, animals, and buildings. He brought the Dutch equestrian portrait genre to England. His oil studies of individual horses are perhaps his most original contribution to the history of English art.

His father visited Rome in the 1630s, and much of his subsequent output was of Mediterranean street or harbour scenes, thopugh he also paintedDutch domestic interiors and alchemists' laboratories. He married in Haarlem on 22 May 1644, and came to England c.1664 where he drew and painted views of London, and night scenes of the great fire. Father and son were established in London in this decade, and on 17 June 1674 Jan promised to present his ‘proofe peece’, and pay his own and his father's quarterly fees to the Painter–Stainers' Company in the City of London. On 24 November 1680 he was placed upon ‘The Committee of Acting Painters’ of the company to represent working painters as distinct from the decorators and interior designers. Thomas soon returned to Haarlem where he died and was buried on 19 August 1677.

Jan Wyck married three times and had seven children by his second and third wives, though the four by his second wife all died young. Wyck himself died on 26 October 1700 in Mortlake to where he had removed from Covent Garden after the death of his second wife in 1687.

Wyck was a relatively prolific artist, and numerous works by his survive. His portrayals of equestrian subjects, which included battle scenes in the style of Wouvermans, hunting scenes (of which genre he was a pioneer in England) and topographical views of country houses and estates were widely collected by patrons in the highest strata of society. He must have been widely itinerant, since his topographical paintings depict places as far afield as Windsor, Dunham massey in Cheshire, Sprotborough Hall in Yorkshire and the new docks at Whitehaven. He was also a pioneer of the equatrian portrait in England. It was, perhaps, inevitable that this sort of subject-matter would have endeared him to his generally grand clientele, since his arrival in England coincided with a boom in the arts at the Restoration after the visually-deprived years of the Commonwealth.

Wyck seems to have enjoyed Court Patronage from fairly soon after his arrival in England: a Battle Piece is recorded in the royal inventories taken at the time of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and he is presumably to be identified with the ‘Jan van Wijck’ who was taken to Holland in 1682 to ‘help … find out horses’ for Queen Catherine, wife of Charles II. Wyck's drawings of country pursuits appeared as engravings in Richard Blome's The Gentleman's Recreation (1686). Two of these drawings for the latter are in the British Museum, along with his drawing of The Thames During the Great Frost of 1683/4.

His work is represented in numerous Museums and old country house collections in the UK; his pupil John Wootton continued his master's style well into the 18th century. He died died on 26 October 1700 in Mortlake.


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