Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Donovan's Overview

 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.  

Sarah's Work

Shannon's Work

Works Cited

Works Cited:


Jones, Susan. "Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History." Jan Van Eyck (ca. 1380/90–1441). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oct. 2002. Web. 05 May 2012. <>. 

Minkler, Deanna, and H. L. Sundstrom. "Jan Van Eyck." Web. 5 May 2012. <>. 

O'Mahony, Mike. World Art: The Essential Illustrated History. London: Flame Tree, 2006. Print. 

Stokstad, Marilyn, and Michael Watt. Cothren. Art History. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall/Pearson, 2011. Print. 

Rev. of The Annunciation, by Andrew W Melon and National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art. 
     N.p., n.d. Web. 9 May 2012. <>. 

Jones, Susan. "The Ghent Altarpiece". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2002)

"Jan van Eyck and Workshop Assistant: The Crucifixion; The Last Judgment (33.92ab)". InHeilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2006)

The Ghent Altarpiece

Jan Van Eyck created artwork during the 'new realism' portion of the Northern Renaissance. The Ghent Altarpiece was highly regarded, but was begun by Hubert van Eyck (Jan's brother). Following the death of his brother in 1426, Jan completed the altarpiece. It is not certain of which brother did what portions of the work.

"The astonishing realism of the altarpiece rests not only in the fidelity with which figures, plants, and animals are represented in a convincing space, but also in its ability to forge a sense of continuity between the pictorial and the real world." (MMA). The altarpiece was astonishing by nature, possibly because some of the painted figures were life-size (such as Adam and Eve). 

The piece was created from readings in the Book of Revelation, focusing on All Saints' Day. Unlike The Annunciation, there is not one specific reading or story which takes place in this altarpiece. Instead, the work encompasses "mysteries of the Catholic faith, beginning with the incarnation of Christ at the moment of the Annunciation represented on the exterior." (MMA)

When the altarpiece is opened a variety of biblical tales and characters are portrayed, including vibrant landscapes, the lamb of God, the Eucharist, Fountain of Youth, Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, and the Last Judgement. 

The Annunciation

One of Jan Van Eyck's most famous works, next to the Arnolfini Marriage, was The Annunciation. It is thought to have been the left piece of a triptych. "The forms—even that of the archangel—seem to have weight and volume. Light and shadow play over them in a natural way, and with amazing skill, Jan van Eyck has distinguished between the textures of materials ranging from hard, polished stone to the soft, fragile petals of flowers." (NGA). The theme of 'The Annunciation' we have seen before, an image of Mary being told be the archangel that she is pregnant with the Son of God. Like in the Arnolfini Marriage, the character's environment and surrounding characters are symbolic towards the meaning of the piece. "The structure of the church can be interpreted symbolically; the dark upper story, with its single, stained–glass window of Jehovah, may refer to the former era of the Old Testament, while the lower part of the building, already illuminated by the "Light of the World" and dominated by transparent, triple windows symbolizing the Trinity, may refer to the Era of Grace of the New Testament. The idea of passing from old to new is further manifested in the transition from the Romanesque round–arched windows of the upper story to the early Gothic pointed arches of the lower zone, and also in the depictions on the floor tiles: David beheading Goliath and Samson destroying the Philistine temple are both Old Testament events in the salvation of the Jewish people which prefigure the salvation of humankind through the coming of Christ." (NGA).

The Crucifixion; The Last Judgment

 The Crucifixion and The Last Judgement is a diptych and one of Jan Van Eyck's earlier works. Van Eyck was known for creating intricately, small works and these pieces are no exception, each no bigger than 23 x 8 inches. On the left is The Crucifixion, depicting Jesus sacrificing himself on the cross. It was "presented as an eyewitness account set against a distant landscape, astonishing for its depth and subtlety of description." (MMA) While juxtaposed on the right is The Last Judgment, showing the end of time following Armageddon. It was "organized hieratically in three tiers, with the scale of the figures manipulated to indicate their relative importance." (MMA) Jan Van Eyck was known for using text in his work and did so in this diptych: "biblical texts on the original frames are given form in the pictures with remarkable literalness, establishing a play between word and image that would have been admired by contemporaries." (MMA)