• 16 December 2015
  • 6:00 – 8:00 pm
  • Lecture Room, Paul Mellon Centre

Much sixteenth- and seventeenth- century British art production – especially paintings made for the elites – was in reality produced by migrants there, generally from the Netherlands. The portraitist known in Britain as ‘Cornelius Johnson’ (and in the Netherlands as ‘Cornelis Jonson van Ceulen’) had a more complex career trajectory. Born in London in 1593, to a family from Antwerp with origins in Cologne, he appears to have trained in the northern Netherlands. Back in London by 1619, Johnson built up an extensive portrait practice during the 1620s and 1630s. Adeptly responding to changing patronage contexts and markets, he painted portraits on every scale, from the miniature to the full-length group. Although Johnson was appointed Charles I’s ‘Picture drawer’ in 1632, royal commissions generally went to the Flemish incomer Anthony van Dyck. After the outbreak of the Civil Wars in Britain and the departure of the court from London, Johnson emigrated to the United Provinces. There, successively, in Middelburg, Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, he adapted his style for the local audiences. At his death in 1661, he was a prosperous man. This lecture will demonstrate how skilfully Johnson deployed his national identity as a marketing tool, and will consider the challenges of researching a transnational career.

Side portrait of old white man

Portrait of a Man, early 1650s, Cornelius Johnson, 1593–1661

Digital image courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund

All are welcome! However, places are limited, so if you would like to attend please contact our Events Manager, Ella Fleming on events@paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk

The seminar will be followed by a drinks reception.

About the speaker

  • Head and shoulder portrait of a woman with blonde hair and black cardigan

    Karen Hearn was the Curator of 16th & 17th Century British Art at Tate Britain from 1992 to 2012, and is now an Honorary Professor at University College London.

    In 1995, she curated the landmark Tate exhibition Dynasties: Painting in Tudor & Jacobean England 1530-1630, for which she received a European Woman of Achievement Award.  She subsequently curated the major exhibition Van Dyck & Britain (2009) and Rubens & Britain (2011-12), both also at Tate Britain. 

    Her 2002 Tate exhibition Marcus Gheeraerts II: Elizabethan Artist established the theme of the ‘pregnancy portrait’, which will be the subject of her next book. 

    Her other publications include: Nicholas Hilliard (2005); ‘Lely and Holland’, in Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision, Courtauld Gallery exhibition catalogue (2012); and 'Picture-Drawer, born at Antwerpe: Migrant Painters in Jacobean London', in Painting in Britain 1500-1630, British Academy / National Portrait Gallery (forthcoming 2015).

    Karen Hearn’s work focuses on art made in Britain between 1500 and 1710, and on British-Netherlandish cultural links during that period.  Her small exhibition on the portrait-painter Cornelius Johnson: Charles I’s Forgotten Painter, with an accompanying book (Paul Holberton publishing: http://www.paul-holberton.net/cornelius-johnson,product,view,290,,,.html) recently closed at the National Portrait Gallery (15 April to 13 September 2015).