Jan van Eyck, a master of detail
Nobody knows the exact date of birth of the man who was undeniably the greatest master of Flemish painting in the late Middle Ages. We can say with certainty that he was born in Maaseik, which at the end of the 14th century was part of the Prince-Bishopric of Liège.
Jan van Eyck's work is remarkable for its realism. Although this was already a feature of Flemish painting, in van Eyck's work the precision and mastery of the details reached a level approaching perfection. The general atmosphere in his paintings comes from his use of light and the interplay of light and shadow, which create volume and generate space.
Western painting owes a huge debt to van Eyck. He perfected the technique of oil painting (although he did not create it). The binder van Eyck used was made from drying oil and another ingredient which made the binder consistent. The fluidity of the material was one of the problems encountered by oil painters in the past.
With his exceptional talent and this new technique, he raised the realism of the details (particularly the interpretation of the subjects) to a level never reached before; the Flemish technique also conferred clarity.
In addition to other requests, he carried out commissions from the Duke of Burgundy, including the 1432 completion of the altarpiece The Mystic Lamb, which had been started a few years earlier by his brother Hubert. He also painted a number of portraits of members of the Flemish aristocracy.
When he died in Bruges in July 1441, his studio was taken over by his brother Lambert van Eyck.