It snowed again! And probably, all you want to do is stay inside with a warm cup of tea and a book (great idea, too). But, inclement weather does not mean you have to be housebound. So... I have the perfect solution for you: visit a Museum. Jan van Eyck is one of my favorite painters, so when I heard the unique exposition at Boijman's museum in Rotterdam, "The road to Van Eyck" is reaching its end*, I knew I had to go. The exposition traces his steps back to the beginning showing an art-historical voyage of discovery that presents the only images we have of the Low Countries in the early Middle Ages, to show the art he was most probably exposed to during his lifetime, and ending with his work (c.1390-1441).
|The adoration of the Magi with St Anthony Abbot. c 1390 LA St. Paul Getty Museum|
He was a true revolutionary, and brought real life to his paintings. Up until then, the style of painting was very "flat" and did not really portray individuals. He had a strong interest in textures and relief: if you look closely at his paintings you will immediately see the detail in brocades, the pleats of fabric, the shine of metal, as well as facial expressions and peculiarities that show the traits of the person being portrayed. He was also a pioneer in the use of light, colors and perspective. His subjects appear tridimensional.
|To the right my favorite, The Arnolfini portrait. To see at The National Gallery in London.|
Talking about color, this was groundbreaking. He dared to paint the annunciation angel with a heavily bejewelled cape and technicolor rainbow wings. This provoked a huge debate at the time: it was thought that colors were the work of the devil, put there to seduce us, and make us sin, starting with that bright red apple in the garden of paradise. Jan van Eyck was telling us "enough with the punishment and the suffering, life is beautiful and can be enjoyed here, now, today".
|The Annunciation. Jan van Eyck. c. 1430-1435|
It was the very early Renaissance and ideas were starting to change. People discovered that you could have a craft, be good at it, take pleasure in it and recognize it was a good thing, hence the rise of merchants and commerce that would make the area very rich in the years to follow.
|Woman between her husband and lover c. 1550. (copy of an original c. 1410).|
|Book of hours of Etienne Chevalier. 1415, van Eyck's earlier work +"De madonna in de kerk", Berlin state museum.c. 1439|
If you go to the exposition, you will also get to see the collection of the Boijman's museum. There is a bit for everyone. Degas' ballerinas, Monet's, Kandinsky's, early Van Gogh's and my personal favorite: "La Jeunesse illustrée" by the surrealist René Magritte. Oh and you might even see giants, yes giants, walking around and having a cup of coffee.
*the last day to visit the exposition is February 10, so if you are in Holland you still have a chance to go. And if you do make it to Rotterdam, you might as well stay for the China light festival, the biggest of its kind in all Europe (which will be there until February 14).
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
3015 CX Rotterdam, the Netherlands