Jan Van Eyck (YAHN van IKE) was born in the Netherlands. The exact year of his birth isn't known, but it was somewhere around 1390.
His paintings are very detailed. Most artists of the time painted with tempera, a mixture of colored powder and egg yolk plus some other substance. Tempera dried quickly and the artist had to work fast. When it dried it had a dull finish and if a sheen was desired, a glaze had to be applied.
Van Eyck was not the first to use oil paint, but he mastered the use of oil in paints. He was able to get stunning results. He used walnut oil and other oils to make the paints and let each thin coat of paint dry before applying another coat of paint over it, giving the painting a three-dimensional appearance. The colors in his paintings are delicate and have a beautiful shine.
He was called "The King of Painters" by people even hundreds of years after his time.
Duke Philip the Good of France wanted to marry Princess Isabella of Portugal. He sent Van Eyck on a diplomatic journey to propse to her. He had never seen her and there were no cameras or photographs in those days. Van Eyck painted a portrait of Isabella to bring back to him. Evidently Duke Philip was pleased with the results.
The painting we are studying; The Arnolfini Marriage, is a record of the marriage of the two people in the picture. In modern days, a couple would hire a photographer to record their wedding. Giovanni Arnolfini hired an artist to paint the picture. In addition to being a portrait, it is also a legal record showing that the marriage took place. The artist signs it as a legal document.
In The Arnolfini Marriage all the objects in the room have meaning. Oranges and lemons were very expensive because they had to be imported from Spain. There are four oranges in the picture suggesting the wealth of the couple. The little dog is also an expensive breed.
The way the women wore their dresses gathered up in front made them look pregnant whether they were or not. Some historians surmise this painting is an actual wedding portrait and that the figures in the mirror might be witnesses. Others say the couple was only engaged and one source will tell you his marriage was recorded in 1447 and the picture was painted in 1434. So, who was that woman? We can only surmise. You will enjoy looking at some of the details of the painting in the Research Links.
Van Eyck painted several pictures of Mary and Jesus including a beautiful painting called Madonna in the Church which was painted in the 1430's.
Another Madonna painting which still exists Madonna by the Fountain can be compared to the sketch he made in preparation for the painting.
Van Eyck painted portraits of people. We don't know who the posed for Man with Carnation and there is debate about the identity of Margaret Van Eyck. It was probably his wife, but some say he had a sister named Margaret. The third picture is Giovanni Arnolfini, the subject of the The Arnolfini Marriage.
Man with Carnation
and the Order of
Margaret Van Eyck
It is thought that Jan Van Eyck had a brother named Hubert who was 20 years older. Supposedly, the famous Ghent Altarpiece was started by Hubert and finished by Jan after his brother's death. He painted over some of the work Hubert had already done. Since their style was similar, it is hard to tell which artist painted particular parts of the altarpiece. This magnificent painting is very large and painted in several panels, 12 in all which fold toward the center. There are more paintings on the back of the panels. The work is approximately 12 by 18 feet. A triptych (TRIP-tik) has three panels. This would be called a polyptych (POL-ip-tik), having many panels. The altarpiece is in the Cathedral of St. Bavon in Ghent. After completing this huge work he painted much smaller pictures.
(Detail) The Adoration of the Lamb
Van Eyck married in 1431 and bought the house where he would spend the rest of his life. After his death his widow was having money problems and Duke Philip was kind to her and helped her financially.
Portrait of a Man in a Turban,
1433 probably a self-portrait
Hammacher, A.M., and R. Hammacher Vandenbrande. Flemish and Dutch Art. New York: Franklin Watt, Inc, 1965. Order
Kostner, Thomas, and Lars Roper. 50 Artists You Should Know. New York: Prestel, 2006. Order
Wilder, Jesse Bryant. Art History for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing Inc, 2007. Order
Weale, W.H.James. Hubert and John Van Eyck. New York: John Lane Company, 1908. full view
The Betrothal of the Arnolfini
Use the Image Viewer on the page to see an even enlarger view.
Jan Van Eyck
See index in the left column
Man in a Turban
thought to be a self portrait
Jan Van Eyck (audio)
Engines of Our Ingenuity.
The Story of Painting
By Sister Wendy Beckett / Dk Publishing
Sister Wendy Beckett, well-known artist, offers an expanded and enhanced reference book for all artists, teachers, students of art. Contains almost 200 close-ups, with rich commentary on 400 masterpieces. Sister Wendy, an extraordinary woman, conveys her love of painting to veteran artists and to those just starting out. 736 pages.
Focus On Artists, Grades 4-8
By Teacher Created Resources
Art broadens horizons and allows children to see and evaluate are as they see art as a piece of individual human expression. Students will learn about famous and not-so-famous artists as well as the historical periods in which they lived--Renaissance & Baroque, 19th Century and 20th Century. Each lesson provides an overview with the focus, activity and vocabulary words; the lesson includes a materials list and instructions. Extensions activities and an introduction to each artist are also included. 112 reproducible pages, softcover. Grades 4-8.
A LIBRARY OF
ONLINE BOOKS and BOOK PREVIEWS
Stories of Art and Artists
by Clara Erskine Clement Waters 1887 (full view)
St. Nicholas, Volume 10, Part 1
by Mary Mapes Dodge 1883 (full view)
Preview these Amazon books using the links below.
The Approach to Painting
by Thomas Bodkin (selected pages)
Inventing van Eyck: the remaking of an artist for the modern age
by (selected pages)
Stories of the Flemish & Dutch artists
by Victor Reynolds (full view)
Painters on Painting
by Eric Protter (selected pages)
How to study pictures by means of a series of comparisons of paintings and Painters
by Charles Henry Caffin 1918 (full view)
The Art of the Berlin Galleries
by David Charles Preyer 1912 (full view)
Handbook of painting: the german, Flemish, and Dutch schools, Volume 1
by Franz Kugler, Gustav Friedrich Waagen, Joseph Archer Crowe 1889 (full view)
Puzzles on these pages courtesy of
Songs of Praise and Armored Penguin
Most Recent Comments ( See more comments on this page ) 2012-07-25
The dog in this painting is soooo cute!
Where is the link "Details of the Painting"?
gives alot of info
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Famous Artists in this Series
Index to Famous Paintings
Lessons for Kids
Picture courtesy of The ArtChive Patron Program