Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Arthur Lazere
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From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has opened its coffers to display a dazzling collection of jewel-like paintings and objects.The exhibition, spanning the years 1420-1560, features the product of a northern European renaissance: over 140 paintings, created in the Netherlandish capitals of Bruges, Brussels and Antwerp, by such artists as Jan van Eyck, Gerard David, Dieric Bouts, and Hieronymus Bosch. They depict a wide variety of subject matter, including portraiture and allegorical scenes, with a strong proclivity towards the devotional.

The newly perfected technique of oil painting, combined with the artists’ naturalistic vocabulary and almost microscopically rendered detail, make these the first truly modern paintings.

The ordinary is made extraordinary in the many devotional paintings. Miraculous apparitions materialize in scenes of everyday life. Biblical scenes are placed within lovely 15th century houses and gardens. The emphasis placed on worldly possessions is quite apparent, and fitting too, as this region was one of the wealthiest in all of Europe at that time. The homes, clothes, and jewels of the era are painted in eloquent detail.

In contrast, the last painting on view is Pieter Breugel’s The Harvesters, a sweeping pastorale depicting working people involved in the simple pleasures of swimming, eating, and sleeping alfresco.

Other exquisite highlights are The Annunciation by Robert Campin, Virgin & Child by Dieric Bouts and A Goldsmith in His Shop by Petrus Christus.

Mark Kane

Jan Van Eyck video .. Brueghel video


Suggested reading:

Early Netherlandish Carved Altarpieces, 1380-1550 :

Medieval Tastes and Mass Marketing (1998), Lynn F. Jacobs

Netherlandish Drawings of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries and Flemish Drawings

of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries in the Pierpont Morgan Library (1991), Felice Stampfle

The Beginnings of Netherlandish Canvas Painting:1400-1530 (1989), Diane Wolfthal

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