Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites: a Never-Before-Seen Comparison at the National Gallery

His convex mirror and refined canvases started a revolution in British painting and within the fraternity of the Pre-Raphaelites. It is for this that the National Gallery celebrates the genius of Jan van Eyck through the Arnolfini Portrait, the precious work held at the museum in Trafalgar Square, on display for the first time alongside masterpieces from the illustrious members of the association created in Great Britain in 1848. For the first time, next to works by the Flemish painter, important works on loan from the Tate Britain, including Mariana by Sir John Everett Millais, L'Infanzia della Vergine Maria by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Awakening Conscience by William Holman Hunt and La Bella Isotta by William Morris. The highly-anticipated event at the London museum will also include a large number of works from private collections, including archival photographs and drawings. Acquired in 1842, when the National Gallery - the only public British collection to possess a work by Jan van Eyck - had only been open for 18 years. The masterpiece by the artist that perfected the technique of oil painting amazed the Victorian public. Beyond being considered one of the most important works of Flemish art, with it complex and enigmatic aura, the canvas portrays, among other objects, the famed convex mirror in which the artist’s image is reflected. The constant presence of the mirror can be seen in another work on display, The Awakening Conscience by William Holman Hunt, testifying to the importance of this object to the Pre-Raphaelites. Even after 1860, the year in which the fraternity disbanded and the various artists began following their own paths, the convex mirror of van Eyck continued to inspire a new generation of artists, such as Mark Gertler, William Orpen and Charles Haslewood Shannon.
Samantha De Martin - © 2017 for Bulgari Hotel London