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His date of birth is not known. Some speculate that Jan van Eyck was born sometime around 1380, while others suggest he was born in 1390. What is important however is that this Flemish Renaissance painter grew up to become the master of oil painting. Jan van Eyck also contributed with many other important innovations. Although historians recognise van Eyck as the master of oil painting, it is arguably untrue that he is the inventor of the technique. So, what makes Jan van Eyck the master of oil painting?

Oil painting dates back to the 5th century China and India. Jan van Eyck however, perfected this medium and used it for his innovations. He is credited with realistic depictions, surface effects and natural light on painting. We don’t know much about his life, but historians have gathered some important facts for him.

His name first appears in 1422, when he started working for John of Bavaria, ruler of Holland.  From 1425 he was at Bruges and Lille as painter to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. In 1428, he travelled to Portugal to paint Philip the Good’s future wife, Isabella of Portugal. The Duke appreciated van Eyck’s work and accordig to sources, paid him a salary. This was not a used practice during that time. When the salary of van Eyck became the subject of dispute, Phillip even defended the artist by sending letters to the accusers.

Van Eyck revolutionized art by using oil paint. Before that, most artists used egg tempera which had a lot of limitations. It dried quickly, which made blending colors difficult, and it did not allow for the same level of luminosity and depth as oil. The use of oil had a profound influence in the art world. It extended the longlivity of paintings, gave more possibilities for details and gave more possibilities to artists, to express themselves.

Van Eyck’s Realism and Use of Light

Jan van Eyck is also very popular for his remarkable details and use of light. He was able to capture the real world with incredible accuracy. His works were famous for the sense of depth and luminocity, which was not common during his days. He also used light and shadow to create volume and give a sense three-dimensionality in his works. He he was also skilled at capturing the human face. His use of symbolism also added value to his work.

Arnolfini Portrait – 1434

The lasting contribution of Jan van Eyck categirizes him as one of the most important artists of the Northern Renaissanse. He influenced a number of artists during his time, but also after his death in 1441. His paintings are a landmark of early european art and influence artists to this day. This makes Jan van Eyck the master of oil painting.

We are extremely proud to inform you that we have created a video series regarding the “History of Renaissance” in our Youtube Channel and we have created an analytical video about the life and work of Jan Van Eyck. You can check it out in the link below:

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