The National Gallery’s collection of fifteenth-century Netherlandish pictures is one of the largest and most important in the world. It includes works by Jan van Eyck, Robert Campin, Rogier van der Weyden, Petrus Christus, Dirk Bouts, Simon Marmion, Justus of Ghent, Hans Memling, Geertgen tot Sint Jans and Gerard David. Early Netherlandish paintings are noted for their veracity but also for their complexity, for their expressiveness and for their technical refinement. For centuries van Eyck was regarded as the ‘inventor’ of oil painting, and artists like van Eyck and van der Weyden powerfully affected the development of European painting in terms of style as well as technique.
In this catalogue, the detailed entry for each work represents the culmination of Lorne Campbell’s extensive research on the authorship, histories and iconographies of the paintings, on the patrons who commissioned them, and above all on the painters’ techniques and working practices – where he has worked in close collaboration with the National Gallery’s Conservation and Scientific Departments. Sophisticated modern methods of analysis have been applied in the examination of every painting, yielding extraordinary results. By assembling a rich combination of scientific and historical evidence, Dr Campbell has been able to reconstruct in detail how these striking paintings were made and, in so doing, greatly to advance our understanding and appreciation of the achievements of the Early Netherlandish painters.
The introductory essay describes how the painters lived and worked, how they organised their studios, how they gathered and employed reference material, how they used their pigments and media and how they marketed their pictures. There is also a history of the collection at the National Gallery. Fifty-two works are catalogued; all are reproduced in colour and accompanied by superb details, comparative illustrations and technical photographs.
LORNE CAMPBELL, formerly Reader in the History of Art at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, is Beaumont Senior Research Curator at the National Gallery. His previous publications include The Early Flemish Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen (1985) and Renaissance Portraits (1990).
He is currently working on the catalogue of The Sixteenth Century Netherlandish Paintings with French Paintings before 1600. His entries for the National Gallery’s paintings by Jan Gossaert (Jean Gossart) have been published on line, free of charge, in advance of publication in print, and can be read here.
‘… brilliant scholarship, outstanding technical investigation and a superb collection of paintings … essential reading for anyone interested in northern Renaissance art.’
John Hand, National Gallery of Art, Washington
‘A visual delight’
Richard Cork, The Times