Jan van Eyck and his world: recent discoveries and new research
6 October to 10 December 2020
In two parts of 5 lectures each; £95 per part
An in-depth look at the art of Jan Van Eyck and his contemporaries. The term, led by Van Eyck specialist Dr Susan Jones, is informed by the latest research, exhibition and conservation projects relating to this towering figure of fifteenth-century Netherlandish art. With contributions by Dr Paula Nuttall and Dr Geoffrey Nuttall.
Traditional scholarship has often tried to align Van Eyck with a model of the ideal painter that was fashioned in Renaissance Italy. This lecture series tries instead to understand him in his own time and place, and particularly within the world of painting in Bruges and the Burgundian Netherlands. It considers his techniques and working processes, how he might have understood painting as a medium, and how he deployed it to communicate ideas—including ideas about himself as a painter. A key aspect of the course is its utilisation of new, state-of-the-art, high-resolution imaging of Van Eyck’s paintings made by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) in Brussels, recently published online (closertovaneyck.kikirpa.be).
Lectures 1-5: Van Eyck and Painting: Observation, Invention, Interaction
Through selected key works, the first five lectures explore Van Eyck’s highly-seductive—though profoundly ambiguous—pictorial realism. They explore his painting techniques and creative process, and show how his inventions draw on a deep knowledge of the natural world that was exceptional for painters at the period. Given that Van Eyck’s works were valued by courtly and urban elites who expressed their social identity through the ownership of material culture, the course will also investigate his clients, their needs and aspirations, and their potential involvement in shaping pictorial design or content.
Lectures 6-10: Van Eyck’s Importance in the Fifteenth Century: Workshop, Italy and Antiquity
The second set of lectures proceeds to explore Van Eyck in the particular contexts of the workshop, the city of Bruges and the Burgundian court, as the focus shifts in part to his patronage networks, interactions with other painters and understanding of antiquity—the last topic also examined from the perspective of his reception in Italy. It explores why particular Italian painters or patrons prized Van Eyck, and how he in turn responded to growing demand on an international scale. Finally, it investigates the question of Van Eyck’s workshop and collaborative practices, readdressing some old and sometimes very controversial questions of attribution.