Jan Van Eyck is known as one of the most influential Northern European painters of the 15th century. Van Eyck was Dutch, born in the province of Limbergin, in the region between the Netherlands and current day Belgium. As influential as he may be little is known about his life before becoming a painter. It is believed that he was born sometime during the 1390s, coincidentally his year of birth is often recorded as 1390. Van Eyck died in 1441, and in his sixty one year career he completed fifteen paintings. Though more famous Jan Van Eyck had a brother by the name of Hubert Van Eyck. Over the years the two would collaborate on many paintings. The often case was Hubert would start a painting, and then Jan would finish it. An example of this would be The Ghent Altarpiece, which Hubert began in 1425, and Jan later finished seven years later.
There is a reason for Van Eyck being such an important painter. Van Eyck was one of the first to use one layer of tempera, and then one layer of oil. This is important because at this time oil paint was a new medium, that was just being introduced.Van Eyck is a pioneer of oil painting, he perfected the newly discovered technique. Discovering many limitless effects possible within it, such as the technique known today as glazing. It was widely known that Van Eyck was more than capable of expressing virtually any emotion in his art. In addition to his paintings Van Eyck took pride in his framework, being one of the few painters to sign and date his frames, which were considered as important as the painting it framed.
Van Eyck made paintings for both private clients, and the court, he produced works for Philip the Good, and the Duke of Borgonga. Van Eyck’s skill was unquestionable and it showcased best both technically and conceptually in his most famous painting Giovanni Arnolfini and his Bride, which he finished in 1435. Symbolism was a driving focus of this work, and the perspective of the piece was also used to help decipher the symbolic elements in the piece. The Last Judgement, another collaborative work with his brother Hubert, was another painting filled with meaning. To the Van Eyck brothers the painting meant, “The end of time when the dead rise from their graves, and are judged”. Van Eyck used the Baroque style of painting to create Man in Red Turban. The sitter is thought to be Jan Van Eyck himself, due to the strain put on the eyes, this strain would make one believe that was in fact caused by looking into a mirror. Seeing his work, and knowing the significance of his role on the development of the oil as a medium, it’s not hard to see why Jan Van Eyck is considered one of the most influential painters of his time.