Jan Van Eyck (1395-1441)

Picture Study is simple. Look at the picture with your children for a few minutes, and then talk about what you saw. Try to remember as much about the piece as you can. Enjoy the beauty of it. Art is not a chore; it’s a pleasure. Beginning our Ancient Beauty theme, we’ve chosen some pieces of Jan Van Eyck’s work for this month. You can find a link to a larger picture at https://www.homeschooloklahoma.org/beauty/


Dutch painter Jan van Eyck was born in the tiny town of Maaseyck (then known as Eyck) sometime in the last decade of the 14th century. He was part of a family of painters. It’s believed that Jan van Eyck is the inventor of oil painting. 

Erich Gombrich tells us:  “What he achieved was a new prescription or the preparation of paints before they were put on the panel. Painters at that time did not buy ready-made coolers in tubes or boxes. They had to prepare their own pigments, mostly from colored plants and minerals. These they ground to powder between two stones — or let  their apprentice grind them — and, before use, they added some liquid to bind the powder into a kind of paste.” Until Van Eyck came along, artists typically created that paste with egg, and the combination was called tempera. Tempera made smooth transitions between colors difficult, and it dried relatively quickly. Van Eyck decided to bind his colors with oil instead of egg and was thrilled with the way the colors could be layered and highlighted. The oil also made the paint dry more slowly and allowed the artist to manipulate the colors as they dried far better than tempera paint did (Gombrich 172).

Jan van Eyck went on to become a court painter as well as a sought-after portraitist. He painted a wide variety of works, from court documentation to religious pieces.  His workshop continued his work after his death in 1441.

Gombrich, Erich H. “The Story of Art : Gombrich E. H. : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming.” Internet Archive: The Story of Art, Phaidon Publishers, 1 Jan. 1970, archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.29158/page/n180/mode/1up?q=eyck. 

Portrait of Artist

Portrait of a Man: By Jan van Eyck – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15270828


Crucifixion and Last Judgment: By Jan van Eyck – art database, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23856016 
Arnolfini Portrait: By Jan van Eyck – Web site of National Gallery, London, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11343084
Adoration of the Lamb: By Jan van Eyck – Jan van Eyck, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=691803
Annunciation: By Jan van Eyck – National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., online collection, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4518815 





Jan Van Eyck for Kids: Famous Artists for Kids:  https://youtu.be/VOJYLqHVhjM

The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck: Great Art Explained:  https://youtu.be/T15Kv6dtYO0


The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich (download or read online for free)

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