Jan Van Eyck

The foremost painter of his age


  • Born: 1390 in Maastricht, Netherlands
  • spent most of his life in Bruges or Northwest Belgium
  • Married Margaretha van Eyck
  • Apprentice at age 20 for Prince Philip, the good of Burgundy
  • Worked for Prince Philip for 16 years
  • Known for his detailed oil paintings
  • Didn't depend on the money from commissions because the court gave him a salary
  • had more artistic freedom
  • Secretly painted commissions for Price Philip that came out of his salary
  • Died young in 1441, at the age of 51
  • After Eyck's death Prince Philip still payed his family through out the years.


  • Oils, allowed Eyck to blend and add to the painting for a longer amount of time because of their slow drying
  • During his time, egg tempera was usually used as a medium by most artist, Eyck was one of the first to start using Oils more frequently and eventually started a trend.
  • Eyck created a new way of looking at nature
  • Payed close attention to detail
  • Had the idea of placing symbolism into everyday objects

Works of Art

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Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife

Found in the National gallery in London, This painting is a Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife, but is not intended to be a wedding record. His wife is not pregnant but intentionally holding up her dress, this was the fashion of the time period. The interior of the house is fancy showing the amount of wealth in the family. He used a technique of layering thin translucent paint strokes to get the bold, intense color.

The interesting trade marks about this piece are the fine details. On the back wall of the painting Eyck wrote "Jan Van Eyck was here 1434". This is interesting because instead of signing it normally he put an interesting twist on it. Another thing about this painting is the mirror right bellow the signature. If you zoom close enough in, you can see the reflection of the couple, and two people behind them in the door way. Some people believe that one of them is Jan Van Eyck himself.

Jan Van Eyck focused on placing symbolism into objects. In this painting there is a small statue of saint Margaret which symbolizes fertility and a healthy family. The peaches in the window were a symbol for delicate love and innocence. The sandals at the bottom left were taken off for a sign of respect. Dogs during the time also showed wealth and fidelity or loyalty. Another symbol that I left undefined was the one lit candle on the chandelier. What do you think Eyck was trying to symbolize there?


The isms in Eyck's Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife are classicism, secularism, and idealism.

Classicism is seen in the painting from the stressed attention to detail. This painting was done by adding translucent layers over each other to get the correct color and lighting needed to make this painting look realistic. also there are religious symbols in the picture like the tiny statue of st Margaret and the peaches that symbolize Adam and Eve's innocence before they ate the fruit.

Secularism is in Eycks painting by not just focusing on religion. Instead of having the church, and god as the center of the painting Eyck has placed nature, or the buyer of the painting in the center. Now the religious items are just back ground features for the prominent public figure.

Idealism is seen from the symbolism throughout. This ism changed art because it made people think differently than what was right in front of them. The world is not always what it seems. Jan Van Eyck using symbols in his art is showing that you have to look at more than just a peach, or a pair of sandals, to see the whole meaning.


Eyck, Jan Van, ghent altarpiece, 1432, oil on panel, Sint Baafskathedraal Gent [Saint Bavo Cathedral]

Eyck, Jan Van, madonna with the child reading, 1433, oil on wood, National Gallery Of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

Eyck, Jan Van, Portrait of a man, 1433, oil on oak, The National Gallery, London

Eyck, Jan Van, Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife, 1434, oil on wood, The National Gallery, London

Jan Van Eyck (c. 1395-1441). Flemish painter.. Photo. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.

Web. 2 Dec 201

"Jan van Eyck." International Dictionary of Art and Artists. Gale, 1990. Biography in Context. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

Jan Van Eyck’s “The Arnolfini Portrait” – a Close Look." Gailsibley. N.p., n.d. Web.

The Complete Works - Jan Van Eyck - Page 1." The Complete Works - Jan Van Eyck - Page 1. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.