Jan van Eyck ( van EYEK, Dutch: [ˈjɑn vɑn ˈɛik]; c. before 1390 – July 9, 1441) was a painter active in Bruges who was one of the early innovators of what became known as Early Netherlandish painting, and one of the most significant representatives of Early Northern Renaissance art. According to Vasari and other art historians including Ernst Gombrich, he invented oil painting, though most now regard that claim as an oversimplification.
The surviving records indicate that he was born around 1380 or 1390, most likely in Maaseik (then Maaseyck, hence his name), Limburg, which is located in present-day Belgium. He took employment in The Hague around 1422, when he was already a master painter with workshop assistants, and was employed as painter and valet de chambre to John III the Pitiless, ruler of the counties of Holland and Hainaut. After John's death in 1425, he was later appointed as court painter to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, and worked in Lille before moving to Bruges in 1429, where he lived until his death. He was highly regarded by Philip, and undertook a number of diplomatic visits abroad, including to Lisbon in 1428 to explore the possibility of a marriage contract between the duke and Isabella of Portugal.About 20 surviving paintings are confidently attributed to him, as well as the Ghent Altarpiece and the illuminated miniatures of the Turin-Milan Hours, all dated between 1432 and 1439. Ten are dated and signed with a variation of his motto ALS ICH KAN (As I (Eyck) can), a pun on his name, which he typically painted in Greek characters.
Van Eyck painted both secular and religious subject matter, including altarpieces, single-panel religious figures and commissioned portraits. His work includes single panels, diptychs, triptychs, and polyptych panels. He was well paid by Philip, who sought that the painter was secure financially and had artistic freedom so that he could paint "whenever he pleased". Van Eyck's work comes from the International Gothic style, but he soon eclipsed it, in part through a greater emphasis on naturalism and realism. He achieved a new level of virtuosity through his developments in the use of oil paint. He was highly influential, and his techniques and style were adopted and refined by the Early Netherlandish painters.