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Hubert van Eyck (c.1370-1426?)

( Originally Published 1955 )

A problematic figure in Flemish painting, his existence is denied by some. Said to have been the older brother of Jan, little is known of his life except for several documents (1425-26) which list minor payments for pictures. Yet the disputed inscription on the Ghent Altar composed after his death by Jan calls him "the greatest painter in creation." The acceptance of his existence still leaves the problem of attribution, since no signed or dated works exist. The painting most commonly accepted as at least partly from his hand is the Ghent Altar in which he is believed to have painted the three large figures of the interior, the lower part of the central panel, and perhaps parts of the wings; the rest was completed after his death by Jan. He is also believed to have worked on the Turin-Milan Hours (1412-17). On the basis of the cited portions of the Ghent Altar, he would appear to be an archaic and slightly Italianizing fourteenth-century master, striving for a monumental grandeur. Other works which have been ascribed to him, though also to Jan and to Petrus Christus, are the Three Marys at the Tomb (private collection, Vierhouten), the Diptych and the "Petrus Christus" Annunciation (both Metropolitan), and the Crucifixion and the Madonna in a Church (both Berlin). He is traditionally said to have worked with Jan and with him to have invented the technique of oil painting, although the latter claim seems highly debatable.

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