Jan van Eyck
Portrait of a Man (Self Portrait?), 1433. National Gallery, London
Van Eyck’s origins are dark and mysterious, only known work is from the 1430s onward. As an artist and diplomat, he served at the court of Count John of Bavaria in The Hague from 1422-1425, and later at the court of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. Van Eyck was the founder of oil painting.
He was the first painter to portray the merchant class and bourgeoisie. His work reflects their priorities, such as having their portraits painted; taking themselves seriously (as donors of altarpieces, for example); art as the imitation of nature; art as evidence of painstaking work and of craftsmanship. He had a brilliant oil-painting technique, which he was the first to perfect—luminous, glowing colors, and minute detail.
Van Eyck’s three-quarter pose of face brought a new realism to portraiture. He initiated a new method in which the artist does not seek to express the social affiliation of the model or to embody her connections with the sacred world, but focuses on the appearance of the person.
“Van Eyck’s eye was at one and the same time a microscope and a telescope.”
Jan van Eyck’s major works are The Annunciation, c. 1425–30 (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art); Ghent Altarpiece (The Adoration of the Lamb), 1432 (Ghent: St. Bavo’s Cathedral); The Arnolfini Marriage; 1434 (London: National Gallery).
- Robert Cumming. Art: complete encyclopedia. – 512 p. – Moscow: Astrel, 2005.