( Originally Published 1955 )
Flemish painter whose art formed the transition from the spirituality of the fifteenth century to the secularism of the sixteenth. First important painter of the Antwerp school, he arrived in 1491 and became a master of the guild in 1493. He came to prominence at the time of great commercial prosperity in Antwerp and had a profound influence on subsequent Flemish painting. His art is a synthesis of the Flemish Gothic heritage and the newer Italian Renaissance ideas, and curiously parallels the early Mannerist developments in Italy. A man of humanist culture, the friend of Erasmus and More (both of whose portraits he painted), he exhibited in his art a largeness of vision, a great range and subtlety of color, a refined chiaroscuro, and an interest in common people,and in character delineation. Born in Louvain, he was first influenced by the great master of that school, Dirk Bouts, whose pupil he may have been. He absorbed the styles of van Eyck and van der Weyden through the art of Bouts and Gerard David as is evident in his earliest works, such as the paintings of the Madonna and Child in Berlin and Brussels. His earliest dated work, the Triptych of the Legend of St. Anne (1507-09, Brussels), executed for the Confraternity of St. Anne in Louvain, shows the first evidence of Renaissance ideas in Flemish art. In his masterpiece, the Triptych of the Lamentation of Christ (1508-11, Antwerp), ordered by the carpenters guild for the Antwerp Cathedral, he exhibits an even greater realism and an increased dependence upon Italian art, especially Leonardo. His realism, his interest in individual types and even caricature has. its most complete expression in such genre pictures as the Money Changer and His Wife (1514, Louvre) which influenced a whole generation of Flemish artists-his sons Cornelis and Jan, Joos van Cleve, Marinus van Roymerswaele, Jan van Hemessen, Peeter Huys and Pieter Aertsen.