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Jan van Eyck
By: Taylor Plunkett
Renaissance Significance on
Society
The Renaissance was the “rebirth” of society. The common
people started to learn and think for themselves and that
led to a slight separation from the Church. Thoughts
became less focused on religion and more focused on
literature and art. This time period brought out the “-isms” in
people. The “-isms” are humanism, individualism, scientific
naturalism, and secularism.
About Jan van Eyck
Jan van Eyck was a Flemish painter. His estimated date of birth
is about 1395. In the early 1420’s, van Eyck was the court
painter for John of Bavaria. After the death of John of Bavaria,
van Eyck became the painter for Philip the Good. In 1454, he
was named “the leading painter of his day” by humanist
Bartolomeo Facio. Van Eyck’s painting was of both religious and
secular
subjects. He uses symbolism as well as realism to show
a coexistence between the spiritual and material world.
Jan van Eyck made the use of oil paints popular during
the Renaissance.
Self portrait of Jan van Eyck.1433
Portraits and the “-isms”
Jan van Eyck was sought after as a portrait artist during the
Renaissance. The amount of people getting their portrait painted
increased vastly. Typically, only the upper class and the clergy
would get their portraits done. However, with the spread of
humanism and individualism the number of middle class wanting
their portrait was really affected. Humanism taught the middle
class that things did not always have to be focused on religion,
they can be centered on the ideals of humans too. To add to
that, individualism told people to think more for themselves.
What better way to do that than with a self portrait by van Eyck?
Portrait of Margaret van Eyck, 1439 (Left); The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434; Portrait
of a Man with Carnation, 1435 (Right)
Portraits and the “-isms”
One does not particularly find influence from secularism or
scientific naturalism in Jan van Eyck’s paintings.Van Eyck
created many altarpieces as well as religious paintings in
general. It does not appear to me that van Eyck believed
religion should not play a role in public society, such as
government and education. Jan van Eyck’s paintings did
not have inspiration from scientific naturalism in my opinion
because they did not focus on the specific anatomy and
function of an individual or any other aspect of science.
The Ghent Altarpiece-Singing Angels, 1427-29
(Above); Crucifiction, 1420-25 (Right)
Spirit of the Renaissance
I believe the portraits painted by Jan van Eyck reflect the
spirit of the Renaissance. Not only do they show people
starting to break away from the majority and do something
for themselves but, they also support two of the four “isms”, humanism and individualism.