Eyck used oil painting (he was said to be the inventor of oil painting) in a very meticulous manner, and he used
transparent layers of glazes to create a sense of depth within the film of paint itself. Van Eyck’s contemporary,
Robert Campin (sometimes called the Master of Flemalle) tends to show more common looking people, while Rogier
van der Weyden, who was a student of Robert Campin and an admirer Van Eyck, focused more on capturing people’s
emotions. Van der Weyden was also a master of design; look for ways that he orders his compositions with repeated
shapes, poses, and colors. Both Van Eyck and Van der Weyden use everyday objects that convey symbolic meanings.
Rogier van der Weyden, Deposition, 1435 Detail
These Flemish painters, like most painters Germany, do not use linear perspective as it was explained by Italian
theorists. Instead they use more intuitive perspective—objects may get smaller and orthogonals more-or-less
converge, but there is no true vanishing point, figures who are more important may be larger than others, and
there is as much attention given to details in the background as in the foreground.
Explore Rogier van der Weyden’s Deposition in high resolution (click on image)
Keeping with Flemish painters for a moment, two important sixteenth century painters are Hieronymous Bosch
and Pieter Bruegel. Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1500) is his best known painting, with its simplified
figures and fantastic, hybrid creatures. This triptych is like traditional Last Judgments with a Paradise scene on the
left and a hell scene on the right, but instead of Christ the Judge in the center, there are dozens of cavorting nudes.
Bosch has been seen as a moralist and a devil-worshipper; what can be said for sure is that he is one of the most
imaginative painters of all time.
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