Jan van Eyck (or Johannes de Eyck)(c. 1395 – 1441) was a Flemish painter active in Bruges and is generally considered one of the most significant Northern European painters of the 15th century. The few surviving records indicate that he was born around 1390, most likely in Maaseik. Little is known of his early life, but his activities following his appointment to the court of Philip the Good c. 1425 are comparatively well documented.
Van Eyck had previously served John of Bavaria-Straubing, then ruler of Holland, Hainault and Zeeburg. By this time van Eyck had assembled a workshop and was involved in redecorating the Binnenhof palace in The Hague. He moved to Bruges sometime around 1425 and there came to the attention of Philip the Good. He served as both court artist and diplomat and became a senior member of the Tournai painters’ guild, where he enjoyed the company of similarly esteemed artists such as Robert Campin and Rogier van der Weyden. Over the following decade van Eyck’s reputation and technical ability grew, mostly from his innovative approaches towards the handling and manipulating of oil paint.
His revolutionary approach to oil was such that a myth, perpetuated by Giorgio Vasari, arose that he had invented oil painting.
It is known from historical record that van Eyck was considered a revolutionary master across northern Europe within his lifetime; his designs and methods were heavily copied and reproduced. His motto, one of the first and still most distinctive signatures in art history, “ALS IK KAN” (“AS I CAN”) first appeared in 1433 on Portrait of a Man in a Turban, which is most likely a self portrait and indicative of his emerging self confidence at the time.
The years between 1434 and 1436 are generally considered his high point when he produced works including the Madonna of Chancellor Rolin, Lucca Madonna and Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele. That year he married the much younger Margaret. Records from 1437 on suggest that he was held in high esteem by the upper ranks of Burgundian nobility while also accepting many foreign commissions. He died young in July 1441, leaving behind many unfinished works to be completed by workshop journeymen; works that are nevertheless today considered major examples of Early Netherlandish painting. His local and international reputation was aided by his ties to the then political and cultural influence of the Burgundian court.
Lets enjoy some of his most important works:
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