Jan van Eyck's career highlights included the Ghent Altarpiece and Arnolfini Portrait, but this biography outlines his extraordinary path from a young apprentice to one of the masters of the Northern Renaissance
Jan van Eyck was born around 1395, perhaps slightly before, in the town of Maaseik in modern-day Belgium. At that time his nationality would have been Netherlandish and he would play a significant role in this region's contributions to the Northern Renaissance, alongside Albrecht Durer and Hieronymus Bosch.
During the life of this artist the town of Maaseik was part of the Bishopric of Liège in the Holy Roman Empire. This region would go through several boundary changes over the centuries to get to what we have today. At this time there was also the Italian Renaissance taking place in the Papal States but van Eyck had a specific contribution to the whole continent in his development of the use of oils.
In 1422, when Jan would have been in his late twenties the artist was given the prestigious role of Honorary Equerry and Painter of John of Bavaria, the then count of Holland. Three years later he moved on to work for others in the palace of The Hague, a truly prestigious location for any artist to be playing his trade. By this stage Jan van Eyck's reputation was established, leading to a move to Lille to serve the Duke of Burgundy. Phillip the Good was to prove an excellent new contact, with him being both powerful and also a keen follower and donor to the arts.
From that point onwards, for nearly a decade, he would go on several diplomatic journeys around Europe aiming to tie several families together through politically-motivated marriages. He would invariably pose purely as an artist and provide portraits to his hosts, whilst then attempting to enter negotiations into arranging mutually beneficial unions.
It was then that van Eyck would move to Bruges and settle down until his passing in around 1441. He would marry a lady named Margaret and they would have two children.