• 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 [email protected]

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 FSA was the Curator of 16th & 17th Century Art at Tate Britain from 1992 to 2012, and is now an honorary professor at University College London. She researches, curates and teaches on the art made in Britain between ca.1500 and ca.1710, and focuses on the migrant artists and the British-Netherlandish cultural links of that period.

    In 1995, she curated the major Tate exhibition Dynasties: Painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530–1630; also at Tate, in 2009, Van Dyck and Britain; and in 2011–12 Rubens and Britain. Having curated Cornelius Johnson at the National Portrait Gallery in 2015, she is now writing a full-scale monograph on Johnson.

    In 2020 she curated Portraying Pregnancy – addressing historical “pregnancy portraits” – at the Foundling Museum, London.