van Eyck

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Eyck, van

(văn īk), family of Flemish painters, the brothers Hubert van Eyck, c.1370–1426, and Jan van Eyck, c.1390–1441.

Their Lives

Very little is known of Hubert, the older of the two brothers. He is said to have worked (1414–17) for Duke William of Bavaria and is known to have settled in Ghent early in the 15th cent. Among the few works tentatively attributed to him are an Annunciation and a remarkable miniaturistic diptych of the Crucifixion and Last Judgment (both: Metropolitan Mus.). Jan van Eyck was active at the courts of Count John of Holland (1422–25) and Philip of Burgundy. In the service of Duke Philip, he made several secret diplomatic journeys. A trip in 1428 took him to Portugal, and while there he painted a portrait of Philip's fiancée, Isabella.

The Eyckian Style and Its Influence

The Eyckian style was based on a strong undercurrent of realism that constituted an important aspect of the development of late medieval art. Outstanding achievements of this realistic trend that may have influenced the art of Jan van Eyck include the frescoes of Tommaso da Modena in Treviso and the panel paintings of Melchior BroederlamBroederlam, Melchior
, active c.1381–1409, Franco-Flemish painter. Broederlam was among the first practitioners of the International Gothic style (see Gothic architecture and art). He was court painter after 1387 to Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy.
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 and of Robert CampinCampin, Robert
, 1378–1444, Flemish painter who with the van Eycks ranks as a founder of the Netherlandish school. He has been identified as the Master of Flémalle on the basis of three panels in Frankfurt-am-Main said to have come from the abbey of Flémalle
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. At the hands of van Eyck experimentation with realism resulted in an astounding minuteness of detail and an unusually fine differentiation between qualities of texture and of atmospheric light. It is thought that his careful delineation of every detail of life was intended to reflect the glory of God's creation.

Some writers have erroneously credited Jan van Eyck with the discovery of the oil technique in painting, but there can be no doubt that he played a crucial role in the perfection of this medium, achieving through its use an unprecedented richness and intensity of color. Developing a personalized technique in oils, he gradually arrived at a meticulously accurate reflection of the natural world.

Although many of his followers attempted to copy him, the distinctive quality of Jan van Eyck's work made imitation difficult. His influence on the succeeding generation of artists, both in N and S Europe, cannot be overestimated, and the entire development of Flemish painting in the 15th cent. (see Flemish art and architectureFlemish art and architecture,
works of art and structures produced in the region of Europe known for centuries as Flanders. Netherlandish art is another term sometimes used for these works. Art produced in Flanders achieved special eminence c.1200 and in the 15th and 17th cent.
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) bears the direct imprint of his style.

Their Work

Of the van Eycks' works that have survived, the largest is an altarpiece in the Cathedral of St. Bavo in Ghent, thought on the basis of an inscription of the frame to have been a collaborative effort of the two brothers, and completed by Jan in 1432. On the panels of the exterior are shown the Annunciation and representations of St. John the Baptist, St. John the Evangelist, and the donors of the work, Jodocus Vijdt and his wife. The interior of the altar consists of an Adoration of the Lamb set in a magnificent landscape, and an upper row of panels showing God the Father flanked by the Virgin, John the Baptist, music-making angels, and Adam and Eve. Various parts of an illuminated manuscript, the Turin Hours, have also been credited to one or both brothers.

Jan van Eyck painted a number of fine portraits, which are distinguished by a crystalline objectivity and precision of draftsmanship. Among these are the Portrait of an Unknown Man (1432), thought to be the composer Gilles Binchois, and the Man with the Red Turban, possibly a self-portrait, both in London; the portrait of Jan de Leeuw (1436) in Vienna; and that of the painter's wife, Margarethe van Eyck (1439), in Bruges. The wedding picture of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Bride (1434; National Gall., London) shows the couple in a remarkable interior.

Van Eyck's interest in the texture and specific quality of material substances and his superb technical gifts are especially well demonstrated in two devotional panels, the Madonna with Chancellor Rolin in the Louvre, and the Madonna with Canon Van der Paele (1436) in Bruges. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., has a beautiful Annunciation (c.1434–36) that is generally accepted as his work. Some of Jan van Eyck's uncompleted paintings are thought to have been finished by Petrus ChristusChristus or Cristus, Petrus
, fl. 1444–c.1473, Flemish painter; a follower and probably a pupil of the Van Eycks. In 1444 he became a free citizen of Bruges, where he remained until his death.
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See studies by L. B. Philip (1972) and E. Dhanens (1973).

van Eyck

Jan . died 1441, Flemish painter; founder of the Flemish school of painting. His most famous work is the altarpiece The Adoration of the Lamb, in Ghent, in which he may have been assisted by his brother Hubert , died ?1426
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The Arnolfini Portrait - Jan van Eyck (National Gallery, London) (1434)