“Van Eyck presents a remarkably detailed description of the complex architectural details of the Gothic Tower. …It seems that Van Eyck had firsthand knowledge,” (145).
In this quote we understand that Van Eyck used reference in his works. The artist’s attention to detail shows that he had specific imagery in mind and researched it thoroughly before transferring it onto his canvas. Van Eyck had most likely already been to this location, or went there specifically with this painting in mind. By painting specifics of a building, Van Eyck has created an image easily recognized.
Till-Holger Borchert, ed. Van Eyck to Durer- The Influence of Early Netherlandish Painting on European Art. New York: Thames & Hudson Inc., 2011. Print.
“The Impression of reality might be further enhanced by the use of naturalistic settings…and the introduction of devices such as fictive frames…introducing deliberate special ambiguities which blurred the boundaries between the real and painted world,” (201)
This quote shows the techniques Van Eyck used in order to create a realistic painting. By putting his subjects in believable spaces, the viewer takes the painting as truth. Portrait paintings seem more natural if the subject of the painting is in a home-like setting. In the paintings, the subject could be sitting in any room of any home, and look like they belonged in that location. By paying attention to the setting, the artist was able to create a painting that feels like a window into another room of a home.
Nuttall, Paula. “Lacking Only Breath.” The Age of Van Eyck: The Mediterranean World and Early Netherlandish Painting. Ed. Till-Holger Borchert. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2002. Print.
“it is also true that the myriad of objects detailed in van Eyck’s works seem to have been painted with remarkable skill and accuracy. We believe he must have carefully studies these things, so vivid is their portrayal. In turn, it seems logical to assume his depiction of the larger world was rendered with equal care, and that he based his settings on actual locations. But although it is clear he studied specific interiors as well as landscapes, it is not all certain he ever portrayed a real scene or interior in its entirety. Scholars have combed Europe looking for the church interiors and landscapes that appear in some of his paintings. All to no avail. Van Eyck’s paintings do not present precise locales, nor specific historical events. However much he may have based them on visual observation, they are not documentary records of his world,” (13).
This passage explains how Van Eyck was able to fool the eye into believing in a fictitious space simply by making the space a realistic as possible. This shows that every scene does not have to be painted exactly how it is seen, as long as everything in the piece is depicted exactly how it appears where it was originally found. With every object being so realistic, the viewer does not question whether or not they are looking at a real scene or location, since everything they are looking at appears believable. Through this technique, Van Eyck was able to have more artistic freedom while still being able to paint in his highly realistic style.
Harbison, Craig. Jan Van Eyck; the Play of Realism. London: Reakton Books Ltd., 1991.
“But in the portrait of 1433 the light is more brilliant and the shade is deeper. The two effect not only a more vivid illusion of space and substance but also a marvelously subtle variation of plane, particularly at the temple and around the mouth and near eyes. … Jan has, for the first time, painted with exquisite skill a network of small reddis capillaries,” (138).
[ Van Eyck, Jan. Man in a red Turban. 1433. National Gallery, London. ARTstor Collection. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.]
The little details are what matters most when painting realistically. Tiny traits such as wrinkles, freckles and capillaries separates a painting of a figure from a portrait of a person. It is in these little detail that Van Eyck creates his hyper-realistic painting and creates the feeling of life in his works. He pays attention to every aspect of his subject and translates that onto the canvas.
Meiss, Millard. 'Nicholas Albergati' and the Chronology of Jan van Eyck's Portraits. The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 94, No. 590 (May, 1952), pp. 137-146. The Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.
“The thesis advanced here is that, in addition to making use of overt symbols and easily recognized embedded ones, in six of his most important paintings Van Eyck devised symbols to be discovered only during the process of prolonged meditation,” (12)
[Van Eyck, Jan. The Arnolfini Portrait. 1434. National Gallery, London. ARTstor Collection. Web. 30 Mar. 2013.]
Van Eyck was a master at subtle and small details. By adding layers of symbolism and small traits to the paintings, he made them more interesting and gave them more of their own life. The artist creates a gripping interest in his piece by forcing the viewer to inspect every aspect of the piece in order to see it in its entirety.
Ward, John L. Disguised Symbolism as Enactive Symbolism in Van Eyck's Paintings. Artibus et Historiae, Vol. 15, No. 29 (1994), pp. 9-53. IRSA. Web. 3 Mar. 2013