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Artists Jan van Eyck

Jan van Eyck

Dutch Painter

Jan van Eyck Photo

Born: c. 1385 - 1390 - Maaseyck (also: Maaseik), near Maastricht, Holy Roman Empire (now Belgium)

Died: July 9, 1441 - Bruges, the Netherlands

"Tangible piece of luminous matter, they confront us with a reconstruction rather than a mere representation of the visible world."


Part artist, part alchemist and some might claim part magician, the legacy of artist Jan van Eyck is shrouded in both mystery and legend. In his work, he achieved an astonishingly sophisticated level of realism, heretofore unknown in the art of painting. Glimmering jewels, reflective metals, lush satins and velvets, and even human flesh were each rendered with their own distinctive qualities with such a high degree of naturalism it seemed he had conjured a new artistic medium. A century after his death, this notion was put in writing as the 16th-century Florentine painter and art historian Giorgio Vasari credited the Netherlandish painter with the very invention of oil painting, a myth that continued well into the 19th century. But even as this legend was extinguished he reserves the title "Father of Oil Painting" and is credited with inventing the modern portrait, with his enigmatic Man in a Red Turban and confounding genre scene, The Arnolfini Portrait. Moreover, the search for his miraculous, and notoriously secretive, recipe for paint has continued through centuries, withstanding the scrutiny of connoisseurs, conservation, and the ever-changing developments in x-radiograph technology seeking the true formula of his lustrous, and enduring, oil medium. Questions once answered, lead only to more questions. The artist and his paintings remain an enticing enigma. As Max J. Friedländer, renowned early 20th century specialist in Early Netherlandish painting, once described: "Here as there - and indeed, in every old reference, the first name is van Eyck."

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