Eyck, Jan Van
Flemish painter who perfected the newly developed technique of oil painting. His naturalistic panel paintings, mostly portraits and religious subjects, made extensive use of disguised religious symbols. His masterpiece is the altarpiece in the cathedral at Ghent, the Adoration of the Lamb.
Jan van Eyck must have been born before 1395, for in October 1422 he is recorded as the varlet de chambre et peintre ("honorary equerry and painter") of John of Bavaria, count of Holland. He continued to work in the palace of The Hague until the count's death in 1425 and then settled briefly in Bruges before he was summoned, that summer, to Lille to serve Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, the most powerful ruler and foremost patron of the arts in Flanders. Jan remained in the duke's employ until his death.
Securely attributed oil paintings survive only from the last decade of Jan's career; therefore, his artistic origins and early development must be deduced from his mature art work. Traditionally, Jan van Eyck has been acclaimed the founder of Flemish oil painting, and scholars have sought his artistic roots in the last great phase of medieval manuscript illumination. It is clear that the naturalism and elegant composition of Jan van Eyck's later painting owe much to such early 15th-century illuminators.
Important for Jan van Eyck's artistic formation were the paintings of Robert Campin. Jan van Eyck must have met Campin at least once and from Campin's art he seems to have learned the bold realism, the method of disguised symbolism, and perhaps the luminous oil technique that became so characteristic of his own style.
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