The Virgin and Child with Canon Joris Van der Paele (c)www.lukasweb.be -Art in Flanders vzw photo Hugo Maertens, http://www.lukasweb.be/nl/foto/madonna-met-kanunnik-joris-van-der-paele-10

Jan van Eyck  was born in the late Middle Ages, somewhere between 1385 and 1390, presumably in Maaseik. Young Jan Van Eyck is first mentioned in the archives in the 1420s. At the time he was employed in the ducal city of The Hague. After the death of his patron, he returned to the Burgundian Netherlands. He first lived in Lille, then in Bruges.

Jan Van Eyck - Madonna with Canon Joris Van der Paele © Groeninge Museum Bruges

Jan van Eyck was a real innovator. His work defined the history of painting. He is primarily known for his exquisite handling of oil paint and is considered the father of oil painting. One of the benefits of working in oils, combined with his ground-breaking craftsmanship, was that he was able to copy every aspect of reality, from fabrics to precious gems and even natural phenomena, making his paintings extremely realistic.

Jan van Eyck was one of the first painters to carve out an individual identity for himself, instead of merely being a craftsman. He signed his paintings - which was quite unusual at the time - and even had his own motto: 'als ich can' (meaning 'as well as I can').

Only twenty works by Jan van Eyck have been preserved for posterity. Each work by this artist is therefore extremely precious. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp has the unfinished panel in oils of Saint Barbara from 1437 and the stunningly detailed Madonna at the Fountain from 1430 in its collection. There are another two paintings by Jan van Eyck in Bruges, where the painter lived from 1432. Virgin and Child with Canon Joris van der Paele from 1436 is his second-largest painting after the Ghent Altarpiece. The second Bruges work is the Portrait of Margaret van Eyck from 1439. His most famous work is the Ghent Altarpiece, which you can see in St. Bavo's Cathedral in Ghent. It is one of a handful of crucial paintings that have defined the history of art.

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