EYCK, Jan van (also called Jan van Brugge, or John of Bruges), Flemish painter: b. Maaseyck about 1381; d. Bruges, 9 July 1441. Hubert (q.v.) gave him his first instruction in the principles of the art, and his talents were so rapidly and vigorously developed that he soon surpassed his brother. The two resided at Bruges, then much frequented by the noble and the wealthy on account of its flourishing com merce. About 1420, or soon after, they went to Ghent for a considerable time, to execute to gether a work which Jodocus Vydt, a Flemish noble, had engaged them to do. This is the celebrated 'Adoration of the Lamb> for the cathedral of Ghent; a painting which contains above 300 figures, and is a masterpiece. It is painted on wood, with side panels which con tain the portraits of the two artists and also of their sister Margaret, who it is now believed never had a corporeal existence.
The reputation of this celebrated painter be came very notable, even during his lifetime, by his great share in the introduction of oil paint ing; the original invention of which has been incorrectly ascribed to him by many. It was a general custom, before his time, to have for the background of the picture a flat gold ground, from which the figure stood out with out perspective, as may still be seen in number less works of earlier date. Van Eyck followed this practice in his earlier efforts, but, as he made further advances in his art, conceived the idea toward which there had been hitherto only some distant advances of giving a more natural grouping and perspective to his figures by a natural background. In this he succeeded so
eminently, as many of his still remaining works prove, that he may be called in this respect the father of modern painting, since he gave the art a new turn and impulse, and laid the foundation of that high degree of improvement which it afterward attained in the brightest era of the great masters who succeeded him in the Nether lands and in Italy. In the art of painting on glass he is considered as the author of the mode of painting with colors delicately blended and yet so firmly fixed that obliteration was impos sible — an object before attained only by joining together (in mosaic) several small panes of dif ferent colors. The school of which he was, in some measure, the founder, does not yield in celebrity to the best contemporary or succeeding artists, although it must be allowed to be often defective in the representation of the ex tremities of the human body —a fault oc casioned by that excessive delicacy which pre vented the study of naked forms, and of anatomy in general. On the other hand, the face, dresses, grouping, distribution of light and shade are always superior, and the color brilliant and splendid, in the works of the painter and most of his scholars. Many of his paintings are still preserved, either in churches and museums, or in private collections.