Ghent Altarpiece by Jan Van Eyck

The Ghent Altarpiece (1425-32), a beautiful oil painting by Great Netherland Artist Flemish master Jan Van Eyck (1390-1441), is a Netherlandish Renaissance Masterpiece located in the Cathedral of St Bavo in Ghent, Belgium. Regarded as one of the most famous paintings of any school or period, The Ghent Altarpiece has always been the core of a van Eyck’s front-page renown. Albrecht Durer, the great German master describe it as a stupendous piece of religious art and this verdict has been echoed by critics and artists for centuries.

This beautiful and mystical polyptych comprises twelve panels mounted on hinges, eight of which are painted on both sides, giving two very different views depending on whether they are open or closed. It’s imbued throughout with both spiritual and intellectual signification.

When opened, it portrays the communion of saints, which is “the new heaven and the new earth”, in the words of the Revelation of St John. Thus the central panel of the lower tier depicts the saints indicating the eight Beatitudes gathered around the altar where the sacrifice of the Lamb is proceeding, angels kneel, holding the emblems of His Passion. From left to right, in the foreground, are two processions facing each other. One of these is made up of the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets, and the other of figures from the New Testament. In the background are two other groups, facing one another as if they had just emerged from the surrounding jungle. A paradisiacal landscape runs through all five lower panels, uniting them in a work. In the middle of the upper tier is God Almighty, the Word, essence and origin of the universe. He is dressed in red and is crowned with a magnificent tiara. On his left is Mary and on his right, St John the Baptist. These central figures are surrounded by angels who are singing or playing instruments. At the far right and left of the composition separately are the figures of Adam and Eve. They were painted by Jan Van Eyck, and are set into trompe-l’oeil niches. Light and shadow play exquisitely over their forms which highlight as if they had been sculpted across-the-aboard.

Van Eyck’s grasp of light, surfaces and variations in material, which owed to his huge patience and attention to detail, gives the work its striking technical virtuosity. The Ghent Altarpiece exemplified the new Netherlandish approach to painting, in which the decorative idealization of the Byzantine and International Gothic tradition made concession to a more realistic rendering of both people and nature, based upon observation and study. As one of the greatest examples of early Flemish painting, the Ghent Altarpiece had a great impact not just on other Flemish artists but on painters across Europe. And it’s spoken well for its brilliance of colour and wide-ranging subject matter, which contains full-length nudes, vivid portrait art, landscapes, sumptuous robes and numerous examples of still life.

The Ghent Altarpiece 1432
The Ghent Altarpiece 1432

A Man and a Woman Seen from the Back 1886 by Vincent Van Gogh

A Man and a Woman Seen from the Back 1886 is a painting made by a Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, who is a famous post-impressionist painter and the pioneer of Expressionism. His works deeply influenced the 20th century art. Van Gogh oil paintings like The Sunflower, Starry Night and Cafe Terrace at Night get most recognized now.

In 1886, Van Gogh came to Paris and there he pursued with Impressionist and Impressionist artist. This experience broad Van Gogh’s eyesight and thus brought about his changes in his painting. He changed his painting style from dull, dark environment and colorless to bright and strong contrasting. This painting shows us in a dull atmosphere that expressed the heart and soul of Van Gogh at that time. Thus it may be painted before he did change his work.

As what he himself said, he does not seek accurate painting but wants to express himself more forcefully. Maybe this painting wants to tell us that people always look forward and do not care so much about the last while looking others’ past and trying to find anything beneficial. Or perhaps he just saw harmonious while two people hug. It could be possible that when two people decide to be together, they have to accept each other’s past like leaving the whole back scenery to each other while hugging. Whatever it wants to show us, that’s what Van Gogh wants to express his feeling not just the two painting subjects.

A Man And A Woman Seen From The Back 1886
A Man And A Woman Seen From The Back 1886

The Lacemaker by Johannes Vermeer

The Lacemaker is the smallest genre painting by the Dutch artist Johannes (Jan) Vermeer (1632–1675), measuring roughly 9 inches by 8 inches. It was completed around 1669–1670, during the artist’s final years and resided in the Louvre Museum Paris.

The work depicts a young lady wearing a satin yellow garment with a white lace collar, head down in concentration as she hold up a pair of bobbins in her left hand and sews the threads of a dress. The lacemaker’s hairdo was said to be in vogue for a limited number of years by the costume experts. As for the lace collar, although we cannot see which kind of lace the lady is making, we can draw some conclusions from her tools which Vermeer has rendered with sufficient precision. The lady rests her hands on a flat, light-blue lacemaking pillow, which served to make shorter pieces or stripes of lace. The small parchment-covered book lying on the table is thought to be a prayer book or small Bible. Accordingly, the feather-like forms which are in front of the book are most probably book ties. It’s rendered with such artistic license that some writers regarded them as feathers. In this context, the Holy Bible definitely symbolizes domestic virtue which was a fundamental concept in Dutch civil life. The lacemaker sits at a rather complicated piece of furniture, a triangular table, for lace making. The table’s uppermost surface could be raised or lowered by inserting a peg into one of the holes in the leg. The holes can be seen in the shadowed portion of the visible leg.

The young lady is set against a blank wall to minimize the external distraction from the central image, and its colour scheme is designed to draw the viewer’s attention to the canvas, and the engagement is further encouraged (with the help of a camera obscura) by the work’s blurring foreground. Vermeer’s rendition of detail, together with his delicate handling of light and shadow in order to enhance the three-dimensional contouring of the lady’s face and hands, provides us with another class of infinite art painting.

Despite the small size of The Lacemaker, in many respects it is acknowledged as one of his most abstract and unusual created during the Dutch Baroque era. The great Impressionist painter Renoir regarded The Lacemaker as one of the two most beautiful pictures in the world. His fame is based on his complete mastery of abstract manner, the use of visual contrasts, spatial design, soft contouring and atmospheric color schemes, which make his work very different in tone and rather extraordinary. In addition, his success also owes to the ability to eternalize a pose rather than capture it, and more than anything a supreme talent for creating a moment of quiet intimacy.

the lacemaker
the lacemaker