- Compare the artistic advances seen in the works of Robern Campin, Jan van Eyck, and Rogier van der Weyden
- The three most prominent painters during this period, Jan van Eyck, Robert Campin, and Rogier van der Weyden, were known for making significant advances in illusionism, or the realistic and precise representation of people, space, and objects.
- The preferred subject matter of the Flemish School was typically religious in nature, and the majority of the work was presented as panels, usually in the form of diptychs or polyptychs.
- While the Italian Renaissance was based on rediscoveries of classical Greece and Rome, the Flemish school drew influence from the region’s Gothic past.
- Van Eyck is known for signing and dating his work “ALS IK KAN” (“AS I CAN”).
- Robert Campin has been identified with the signature “Master of Flemalle.”
- Because the Flemish masters used a workshop system, they were able to mass produce high-end panels for sale and export throughout Europe.
The Flemish School
The Flemish School, which has also been called the Northern Renaissance, the Flemish Primitive School, and Early Netherlandish, refers to artists who were active in Flanders during the 15th and 16th centuries, especially in the cities of Bruges and Ghent. The three most prominent painters during this period—Jan van Eyck, Robert Campin, and Rogier van der Weyden—were known for making significant advances in illusionism, or the realistic and precise representation of people, space, and objects. The preferred subject matter of the Flemish School was typically religious in nature, but small portraits were common as well. The majority of this work was presented as either panels, single altarpieces, or more complex altarpieces, which were usually in the form of diptychs or polyptychs.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Low Countries became a political and artistic center focused around the cities of Bruges and Ghent. Because Flemish masters employed a workshop system, wherein craftsmen helped to complete their art, they were able to mass produce high-end panels for sale throughout Europe. The Flemish School emerged almost concurrently with the Italian Renaissance. However, while the Italian Renaissance was based on the rediscoveries of classical Greek and Roman culture, the Flemish school drew influence from the area’s Gothic past. These artists also experimented with oil paint earlier than their Italian Renaissance peers.
Robert Campin, considered the first master of the Flemish School, has been identified with the signature “Master of Flemalle,” which appears on numerous works of art. Campin is known for producing highly realistic works, for making great use of perspective and shading, and for being one of the first artists to work with oil paint instead of tempera. One of his best known works, the Merode Altarpiece, is a triptych that depicts an Annunciation Scene. The Archangel Gabriel approaches Mary as she is reading in a room that is recognized as a typical middle class Flanders home. The work is highly realistic, and the objects throughout the painting conveyed recognizable, religious meaning to viewers at the time.
Jan Van Eyck
Jan van Eyck, a contemporary of Campin, is widely considered to be one of the most significant Northern European painters of the 15th century. He is known for signing and dating his work “ALS IK KAN” (“AS I CAN”). Signatures were not particularly customary during this time, but helped to secure his lasting reputation. Active in Bruges, and very popular within his own lifetime, van Eyck’s work was highly innovative and technical. It exhibited a masterful manipulation of oil paint and a high degree of realism. While van Eyck completed many famous paintings, perhaps his most famous is the Ghent Altarpiece, a commissioned polyptych from around 1432.
Rogier van der Weyden
Rogier van der Weyden is the last of the three most renowned Early Flemish painters. An apprentice under Robert Campin, van der Weyden exhibited many stylistic similarities, including the use of realism. Highly successful in his lifetime, his surviving works are mainly religious triptychs, altarpieces, and commissioned portraits. By the end of the 15th century, van der Weyden surpassed even van Eyck in popularity. Van der Weyden’s most well-known painting is The Descent From the Cross, circa 1435.