Summary of Rogier van der Weyden
Rogier van der Weyden was one of the most significant and influential artists of the Flemish Northern Renaissance, along with Jan van Eyck and Robert Campin. He became the official painter of the city of Brussels, and made work for the Duke of Burgundy, ruler of the region at the time. The figure groups and compositions for portraits and Biblical scenes that Van der Weyden devised inspired generations of later artists, and his ability to represent intense emotions was recognized as one of his signature contributions to European art.
Like his contemporaries, he emphasized close observation and meticulously detailed representation, balancing this illusionistic realism with an equal interest in strong, linear surface design. Although none of the existing works ascribed to him is signed, his distinctive style, combined with recent detailed technical examinations and numerous documents identified by scholars, has enabled art historians to assemble a coherent - if often debated - body of work by him. Dirk de Vos in his catalogue raisonné on the artist counted thirty-six surviving works and about forty that have been lost, noting that care must be taken to distinguish Van der Weyden's hand from those of his workshop assistants.
- Van der Weyden's greatest impact may have been in the depiction of emotions. He is credited as the first European artist to paint figures visibly weeping, and the powerful visual effect of his carefully orchestrated compositions, with figures often placed in shallow spaces that seem to extend toward the viewer, heightens the impact of the emotions those figures express. As Michelangelo is said to have commented almost a hundred years later, perhaps with Van der Weyden in mind, "Flemish painting... will please the devout better than any painting of Italy, which will never cause him to shed a tear, whereas that of Flanders will cause him to shed many."
- His compositions were highly influential, thanks in part to the standard workshop practices of the time, which often involved literally reusing the same drawn pattern in different works. He is also said to have developed the format of the devotional portrait diptych, in which a sitter in prayer faces a depiction usually of the Virgin and Child, a format that other artists also replicated.
- Like many of his contemporaries, Van der Weyden often incorporated illusionistic elements in his paintings, exploring the boundaries between three-dimensional sculptures and structures and the flat surface but life-like colors of painting. Where Jan van Eyck included a mirror in some of his works, to imply the viewer's presence in front of the painting, Van der Weyden surrounded several of his images with painted frames, which the figures in the scene often touched or overlapped, suggesting that the painted scene extended outward beyond the frame. His intention was to enable the viewer to experience the image in a more immediate way, as if it were occurring in the viewer's own space and time.
Biography of Rogier van der Weyden
Roger (or Rogier) de la Pasture was born in Tournai, a town ruled by the French king but surrounded by territory controlled by the dukes of Burgundy, and now part of Belgium. His father Henri de la Pasture was a successful master cutler, part of Tournai's thriving industry of knife production, and his mother was demoiselle Agnès de Waterlos (or Watrelos). When he later moved to Brussels, he translated his name to the Flemish Rogier van der Weyden, and because of the numerous variants of his name in different documents - as well as the loss of documents and art over the course of time - much of his biography is uncertain and has long been subject to debate.