Jan van Eyck (* c. 1390 in Maaseik; † 1441 in Bruges) was a Flemish painter of the late Middle Ages and is considered the founder and at the same time the most famous representative of Old Netherlandish painting. He introduced the new naturalistic artistic epoch north of the Alps. Because of his perfect painting technique and his sense of realistic representation, he was even called the "king among painters" by many authors.
He took employment in the Hague around 1422 when he was already a master painter with workshop assistants, and was employed as painter and valet de chambre with John III the Pitiless, ruler of Holland and Hainaut. After John's death in 1425, he was later appointed as court painter to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, working in Lille until he moved to Bruges in 1429 where he lived until his death. He was highly regarded by Philip and undertook a number of diplomatic visits abroad, including to Lisbon in 1428 to explore the possibility of a marriage contract between the duke and Isabella of Portugal.
About 20 surviving paintings are confidently attributed to him, as well as the Ghent Altarpiece and the illuminated miniatures of the Turin-Milan Hours, all dated between 1432 and 1439. Ten are dated and signed with a variation of his motto ALS ICH KAN (As I (Eyck) can), a pun on his name, which he typically painted in Greek characters.
Van Eyck painted both secular and religious subject matter, including altarpieces, single-panel religious figures and commissioned portraits. His work includes single panels, diptychs, triptychs, and polyptych panels. He was well paid by Philip, who sought that the painter was secure financially and had artistic freedom so that he could paint "whenever he pleased". Van Eyck's work comes from the International Gothic style, but he soon eclipsed it, in part through a greater emphasis on naturalism and realism. He achieved a new level of virtuosity through his developments in the use of oil paint. He was highly influential, and his techniques and style were adopted and refined by the Early Netherlandish painters.
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3 | Madonna of Chancellor Rolin (Die Madonna des Kanzlers Nicolas Rolin), c.1435
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