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Van Eyck. An Optical Revolution

In 2020, the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent (MSK) is organising ‘Van Eyck. An Optical Revolution’. This will be the biggest Jan van Eyck exhibition ever seen. Worldwide, there are only some twenty works by this Flemish Master preserved, of which at least half of them are traveling to Ghent. This promises to be an unmissable exhibition. The world of Van Eyck and his revolutionary gaze will be brought to life like never before.

Biggest Jan van Eyck exhibition ever

These works are being brought together in Ghent with work from Van Eyck’s studio, copies of paintings that have gone missing over time and more than 100 masterpieces from the late Middle Ages. The eight restored exterior panels from The Ghent Altarpiece stand at the centre of the exhibition. For the first time in history, an exhibition outside of St Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent will be dedicated to these revolutionary panels.

The panels are to be apportioned throughout the exhibition halls so that you may come closer to Van Eyck’s mastery than ever before. Do not miss this opportunity! After their return to the cathedral, they will never again leave… ‘Van Eyck. An Optical Revolution’ is absolutely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The revolutionary vision and the genius of the Master become more tangible than ever! Never before could one admire so many Van Eyck’s in a single place. As such, we are offering the visitors the same astonishment that Van Eyck’s contemporaries experienced when they saw his work.

The Genius of Jan van Eyck

Nearly six hundred years after his death, the optical revolution of Van Eyck has retained its immediacy and his work continues to speak to the imagination. The ground-breaking artist had an enormous influence on the art of painting in the West. Van Eyck was court painter, and he moved amongst the highest nobility and social circles. He also made diplomatic journeys throughout Europe. He incorporated all of these experiences into his paintings.

With his scientific knowledge, an unparalleled power of observation and a staggering technique of oil painting, he painted the world as nobody before him had ever done. He made portraits in which only the breath is lacking. He created magnificent landscapes that show the world in the greatest of detail. And at the same time he baffled his contemporaries – as well as us today – with the illusionistic rendering of sculptures.

It is no coincidence that art-loving tourists were coming already in the fifteenth century from all over Europe to Ghent in order to admire the Altarpiece. At the same time, this Flemish Master remains an enigmatic figure. Only some twenty of his works and a handful of historical sources about his life have been preserved. The exhibition in 2020 unravels the myths around the artist and immerses the visitor into the world of Van Eyck.

International tour de force

In order to make Van Eyck’s revolution tangible, MSK is placing his works alongside those of his most talented contemporaries. Various paintings from international top collections are coming to Belgium for the first time, or shall be exhibited for the first time together. Absolute high points are the painters from the early-Italian Renaissance, that are rarely to be seen next to their Flemish counterparts and the artists that were inspired by Van Eyck beginning in the sixteenth century.

In total, the MSK is bringing together more than 100 paintings, miniatures, sculptures and drawings from the (late) Middle Ages. Prestigious names such as the Vatican Museums, the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, the National Gallery in Washington, DC and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles are amongst the many partners.

We are already highlighting the veil here, with a few eye-catching loans. In the coming months, keep an eye on the website for more news!

A thematic year and a visitors’ centre

The exhibition signals the start of Ghent’s thematic year ‘OMG! Van Eyck was here’. Visual arts, theatre, dance, design, fashion, gastronomy, music and even shopping shall bask in the atmosphere of Van Eyck and ‘The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb‘ for one year. In the Summer of 2020, the St Bavo’s Cathedral is opening a visitors’ centre. The original church treasures and modern presentations-techniques will reveal the story behind the multi-panelled work of the brothers Van Eyck.