Jan van Eyck


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Jan van Eyck was one of the greatest revolutionaries in art. He radically changed the way in which men look at the natural world. His artistic achievements were well-known in Renaissance Italy. Vasari, who wrote about Van Eyck a hundred years later, wrongly attributed the discovery of oil painting to him. Only a few years after his death in 1441, Jan van Eyck was being hailed on both sides of the Alps as one of the greatest painter of the age.

Despite Van Eyck’s great fame, little is known of his life except for his last years. For the last 16 years of his life, he worked at the court of Philip the Good, The Duke of Burgundy. The Duke made use of his skills as both painter and diplomat, sending him on numerous secret missions.

The works of Jan van Eyck are celebrated for their visual splendor and precision of detail. Their brilliant colours and magnificent definition are due to Jan’s refinement of the oil-painting technique and died even before the great High Renaissance master painters were even born.

Published in: Art & Photos
  • Fantastic!!!! Excellent explanations and show. Thank you so much. and congratulations!
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  • Wuauuuu!! Congratulations Jerry!! this is an outstanding work, very
    beautiful with amazing paintings plus your clear teach about the
    artist and his art, so marvel show. Thanks so much for sharing.
    I wish you to continue with this inspiration for a long time. Warmly
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  • Thank you. Very impressive, one of the best pps I've seen ,,,,,, Thank you
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  • Excellent production,bravo Jerry,well done.
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Jan van Eyck

  1. 1. Jan Van Eyck c1390 -1441 First created 20 Jun 2005. Version 4.0 13 July 2014. Jerry Tse, London. All rights reserved. Rights belong to their respective owners. Available free for non-commercial and personal use. “He was the king of painters whose perfect and accurate works will never be forgotten” Jean Lemaire de Belge, 1504. The King of painters
  2. 2. European painting made a decisive break, in the 15th century. Changes took place in Italy and in Flanders (modern day Belgium & Netherlands). In Italy, it centred around Florence. In Flanders, it centred around the ports of Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp. Flanders was the financial and cultural centre of Northern Europe; it was amongst the most prosperous places in Europe. Panoramic view of Florence 2003 Guild houses Ghent 2002 The Northern Renaissance History
  3. 3. Man in Tuban (probably a self- portrait). 1433. Van Eyck. National Gallery. London. A motto was found on this painting ‘Als ich kan’ (As I can). Jan van Eyck was born before 1390 but very little is known about his early life before 1422. He moved to Bruges in 1430 and lived there until he died in 1441. He was one of the greatest and most influential painters. His style was naturalistic, full of realistic details. He belonged to the Early Netherlandish School. Van Eyck is the first painter who used and mastered the technique of oil painting, which transformed European paintings. He was employed as a court painter by Philip the Good, the powerful Duke of Burgundy, and enjoyed patronage of the rich and famous. He was also a diplomat and undertook numerous ambassadorial journey for the Duke. Jan van Eyck Biography
  4. 4. Van Eyck was years ahead of his time. He painted his masterpieces even before the famous Renaissance painters were born .
  5. 5. The use of Lens Van Eyck painted the mirror on the right. How is it possible that reflections in the mirror appear so realistic, even before the laws of perspective were discovered? Between the late 1420s and the early 1430s, paintings in Flanders suddenly look more photographic. Painters in Flanders had discovered the use of the lens to project images, helping them to paint. They employed a device called Camera Obscura. Camera Obscura is a ‘dark room’ with an opening for lens. Van Eyck may have used such device. The mirror in the painting. Only 5 years separate the two portraits. Left. Masolino da Panicale c1425. Right Robert Campin c1430. A pair of spectacle painted by Jan Van Eyck in 1434. Techniques
  6. 6. Comparison of Netherlandish and Italian Portraits
  7. 7. Netherlandish and Italian Portraits Portrait Significant progress was made in the decade between 1425 and 1435. The Netherlandish portraits on the top row were more naturalistic..
  8. 8. Portrait God on the Altarpiece. 1432. Van Eyck’s Portraiture Van Eyck’s was a successful portrait painter. His portraits could be frontal, full-length (left), or profile (above) or half-length, three quarter (right) or even double portraits. He was among the first to paint the three quarter pose. Madonna of Joris van der Paele (Detail - Paele). 1434. Jan de Leeuw. 1436.
  9. 9. Costume Painted in Italy in 1443, note how the costumes were painted. This was fairly typical of the time. Italian costumes
  10. 10. Costume Comparison of costumes Drapery painted by van Eyck in c1426 (Left). Massolino painted these costumes in 1426-27 (Right).
  11. 11. Costume A few years later in 1434 van Eyck painted these draperies and the carpet. What has changed? His mastery of oil painting and the use of optics may have paid an important part. Van Eyck’s costumes
  12. 12. Italian landscape Adoration of the Magi (detail). 1423 by Gentile de Fabriano, Uffizi St George and the Princess of Trebizond (detail). 1436 by Pisanello. Church of Sa Anstasia, Verona. Landscape
  13. 13. Italian landscapeLandscape Pure landscape painting did not exist in early 15C. Inevitably landscape was used as backdrop for some paintings. In this period Italian landscape tended to be representational and marginalised for ‘more worthwhile subjects’. Painters were more interested in the laws of perspective to create the illusion of depth as in the above.
  14. 14. Van Eyck introduced extensive use of landscape in his paintings. His landscape was an integral part of the painting and his approach was more naturalistic, carefully depicted the light and shadows. This is the detail view of a city in the Adoration of the Lamb. Van Eyck’s landscape. Landscape
  15. 15. Armour Comparison of Armour Van Eyck 1434. Andrea del Castagno c1448. Van Eyck was also years ahead in depicting armours using oil. Mantegna c1460.
  16. 16. The New York Diptych – Crucifixion and the Last Judgement. 1425. ReligiousPainting
  17. 17. The New York Diptych – Detail CrucifixionReligiousPainting
  18. 18. New York Diptych - Details Last JudgementReligiousPainting
  19. 19. The Ghent Altarpiece, 1432 The Ghent Altarpiece is one of the greatest artistic achievement of 15C (1432). The altarpiece is very large and was painted for the Cathedral of St Bavo. It was began by Hubert Van Eyck, Jan’s elder brother, but finished by Jan Van Eyck. The altarpiece was painted on the Exterior and the Interior, which is revealed by opening the panels. Interior of the altarpieceExterior of the altarpiece GhentAltarpiece
  20. 20. The Ghent Altarpiece - Exterior When Ghent Altarpiece is closed, the paintings on the Exterior tells the story about the coming of Jesus. GhentAltarpiece
  21. 21. Exterior details - The angel and the sibylGhentAltarpiece
  22. 22. The Ghent Altarpiece - InteriorGhentAltarpiece
  23. 23. Ghent Altarpiece 1432 Interior details – Judges, Soldier and Music Music Making.Soldier of Christ.Just Judges.
  24. 24. Interior details – Adoration of the LambGhent Altarpiece
  25. 25. Ghent Altarpiece 1432 Interior details – The Lamb and Crowd. The Crowd.The Sacrificial Lamb.
  26. 26. Ghent Altarpiece 1432 Interior details – The Church Group Note how well van Eyck painted the jewellery. This highlighted an advantage of oil paints over tempera.
  27. 27. Ghent Altarpiece 1432 Interior details – Worshipers
  28. 28. VandePaele1434
  29. 29. Paele (right) was painted with bald and wrinkled head, holding his spectacle, which distorted the text in the book. Below is the detail of the costume of St Donatian and St George. Van de Paele 1434 Details – Donor, Costume and Armour The Donor Van de PaeleCostume and armour.
  30. 30. Van de Paele 1434 Details – Madonna and Canon Madonna and Child. The Donatian.
  31. 31. Madonna of Chancellor Rolin Nicolas Rolin was Chancellor of Burgundy and Brabant. The three arches are probably intended to symbolize the Trinity. Though the arches is a breathtaking landscape of a city, showing the mastery of Van Eyck in dealing with perspective and space.
  32. 32. Chancellor RolinMadonnaofChancellorRolin
  33. 33. MadonnaofChancellorRolin Details – Jesus & Landscape
  34. 34. MadonnaofChancellorRolin Details – Townscape
  35. 35. MadonnaofChancellorRolin Details – River
  36. 36. The Arnolfini Wedding Most people are often surprised, when they see the painting for the first time because of its small size, about the size of a small bathroom mirror. We see a rather ugly man with a big hat holding the hand of a woman, who looks like that she is pregnant, with strange hair style and headdress standing in a rather small bedroom. We start to wonder why this is a masterpiece. This is because we look at the painting through modern eyes and judge it by aesthetics alone. We ignore the historical context in which it was painted. The Arnolfini Marriage.1434. 82x60 cm. Oil on Panel. Jan Van Eyck The National Gallery, London.
  37. 37. The Historical Context 1370 1390 1410 1430 1450 1470 1490 1510 1530 1550 VanEyck Campin Da Vinci Michelanglo Da Vinci 1452-1519 Michelanglo 1475-1564 Campin 1375-1444 Van Eyck 1390-1441 When van Eyck painted the Arnolfini Marriage, it was painted over 70 years before Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Michelangelo's Sistine chapel. Van Eyck’s painting look far more true to life than his contemporaries in Italy, as illustrated by the portrait of St Paul by Masaccio on the right a few years before the Marriage of Arnolfini. San Paol. 1426. Masaccio. Italian. Museo Nazionale. Pisa. Robert Campin, who also painted in similar way is included in above for comparison. Giovanna Cenami, 1434.
  38. 38. The Display of Wealth The house was built with bricks, as can be seen from the wall shown outside the window. Underneath the window, oranges are painted that could only have come from southern European. The couple are opulently dressed in fur and expensive white ermine. The Turkish carpet on the floor, the hangings on the bed, the mirror and the chandelier were all items of luxury. The man in the painting was Giovanni Arnolfini, a rich silk merchant from Lucca Italy. The lady was thought to be Giovanna Cenami, daughter of a prominent Italian financier. The entire painting is filled with objects of wealth.Details. Apple on the window ledge and oranges on the table. Details. Fur on Arnolfini’s cloth. Fur lining on Cenami’ cloth. Turkey carpet on the floor. The Arnolfini Portrait. 1434. Jan Van Eyck. TheArnolfiniWedding
  39. 39. Allegory & Cultural Symbols Mirror on the wall. Chandelier Giovanna’s clogs Giovanni’s clogsDog Allegory is used by painters to represent abstract concepts like bravery, faith or royalty. Religious symbols can be found littered in the painting; apples as fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, the Carving of St Margaret patron saint of childbirth, Prayer beads and a single candle on the chandelier signifying the presence of Christ. In contrast, secular symbols were also used; dogs for fidelity, a bed for the consummation of marriage, the blue sleeves & the white lining worn by the lady denote purity, clogs cast away representing the abandoning of daily chores on this solemn occasion. TheArnolfiniWedding
  40. 40. Was it a Marriage? The painting tells us this was an important occasion. Above the mirror, van Eyck wrote “Johannes de Eyck fuit hic 1434” (van Eyck was here) as witness to the occasion. So if this was a marriage, then why were only four persons present, two of whom only shown in the reflection on the mirror? Shouldn’t we expect more people? In the 15th Century it was customary for the couple to exchange vows before marriage; an engagement. The painting depicts the moment when Arnolfini took the hand of Cenami and raised his left hand, as he betrothed (vowed to marry) his future bride. In fact, the painting was thought to be the Betrothal between Arnolfini and Cenami. Arnlfini became a councillor to the Duke of Burgundy and was knighted in 1462. He died in 1472 in Brugge, 38 years after the painting and two years before the birth of Michelanglo. Cenami died ten years later and the couple perished childless, with no evidence that they had raised any children. In 1470, Arnolfini was sued by a woman, who wanted jewellery that he had given her, returned to her. She also sought a pension and several houses that she had been promised. So it appears, Arnolfini may have married Cenami for her money. Jan van Eyck died seven years after he painted this picture. He is now widely recognized as one of the greatest painters who ever lived. Giovanni Arnolfini, also painted by van Eyck. Giovanna Cenami TheArnolfiniWedding
  41. 41. TheArnolfiniWedding Since my first version of the slideshow, new interpretations of the paintings has come to light. A chance discovery in 1997 that Arnolfini married his wife Jeanne Cenami in 1447, 13 years after painting was painted. According to Margaret Koster the painting is a memorial depiction of Mystery deepened Arnolfini’s first undocumented wife Costanza Trenta, who died in Feb 1433. Koster’s strongest interpretation is based on the two candles on the chandelier. One burning candle above Arnolfini and a burn out candle with dried wax above his wife. Thus the interpretation of the painting changes from a marriage to a betrothal and to a memorial. Burn out candle holder with wax on its surface.
  42. 42. The painting The Arnolfini Portrait. .1434. 82x60 cm. Oil on Panel. Jan Van Eyck The National Gallery, London.
  43. 43. De LannoyPortrait Note how well the coat was painted. Van Eyck other paintings
  44. 44. Portrait
  45. 45. Cardinal Niccolo Albergti. 1438. Oil on wood. 34.1x27.3 cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Portrait
  46. 46. Van Eyck’s wife Portrait
  47. 47. Madonna in the Church (Detail). C1438-40. Oil on oak. 31x14 cm. Gemaldegalerie, Berlin. Religious Painting He painted several Madonna and Child paintings.
  48. 48. Relative sizes of paintings
  49. 49. Music – Bach, Sheep May Graze Peacefully All rights reserved. Rights belong to their respective owners. Available free for non-commercial and personal use. The diagram shows cabin with a lens. This is called a camera obscura. It is very likely that Jan van Eyck used such a device or setup to create images on his paintings. The End