ARTNews breaks down why you probably had to write a ten page paper on van Eyck in your undergrad art history class.
The influence of Northern Renaissance artist Jan van Eyck has been so outsized, it is almost impossible to discuss oil painting without considering his impact. “Talking about Van Eyck is talking about the most powerful painter in the western hemisphere,” the painter Luc Tuymans once told Even magazine. “It is not Leonardo da Vinci. It is nobody else but van Eyck.”
Such a pronouncement may seem strange. The 15th-century painter died in 1441, likely in his early 50s, and he left behind just over 20 known oil paintings. Despite being well-respected in his day, a lot is still unknown about van Eyck—even the exact year of his birth remains a mystery. But his art continues to intrigue today—as evidenced by the fact that a humanoid lamb featured in his famed Ghent Altarpiece became an unexpected viral sensation earlier this year. (Hélène Dubois, a conservator who worked on the altarpiece’s $2.4 million restoration, led by Belgium’s Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage and funded by the Getty Foundation, claimed that the tweets mocking the lamb were “stupid,” but acknowledged the shock of seeing the “masterpiece” anew.)
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