This week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast is devoted to Jan van Eyck, the greatest painter of the northern Renaissance.
The first guest on the program is art historian Craig Harbison, whose book “Jan Van Eyck: The Play of Realism,” has just been revised and expanded to reflect new research on van Eyck’s wrok. It’s smart and detailed, but reads lightly. It’s a too-rare example of a top art historian willing to allow his sense of wonder at his subject’s work to infuse every page.
This season’s second major van Eyck news is the creation of “Closer to van Eyck: Rediscovering the Ghent Altarpiece.” The website is remarkable for many reasons. First: It’s difficult to see the Ghent Altarpiece in any detail in person: Many of the panels are 15 feet off the ground, leaving them impossible to examine closely. Now anyone can examine high-resolution, digital versions of them in never-seen-before quality.
But the site is much more than that: Unlike popular macrophotography sites such as the Google Art Project, “Closer to van Eyck” offers four layers of technical documentation of the Ghent Altarpiece: The straightforward macrophotographic image, but also infrared macrophotography, infrared reflectography and x-ray images.
My second guest, Ron Spronk, coordinated the “Closer to van Eyck” project. He is a an art historian and a specialist in the technical documentation of paintings.
Image: Jan and Hubert van Eyck, Detail from the “Singing Angels” panel of the Ghent Altarpiece, 1432.
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