Jan Van Eyck’s Diamond-Hard Brilliance, as You’ll Never See It Again

By Jason Fargo
Van Eyck’s “Madonna at the Fountain,” dated 1439, is one of the many works on view at the MSK. Gael Turine for The New York Times
GHENT, Belgium — God is in the details, they assure you; but some art is so jam-packed with details, each hair so fine, each fold so painstaking, that it surpasses even the divine. Nearly six centuries ago, here in the northwest corner of Europe, the painter Jan van Eyck used a brand-new technology — oil paint — to pioneer an art of such precision that it almost negated its religious function, and went past inspiring prayer to become something eternal itself. Still today, for secular audiences, his diamond-hard paintings can appear to come from another world. If Van Eyck’s innovations are hard to see in the cathedral, all the more reason to grab the chance to see the outer panels at the MSK (Museum of Fine Arts). [More]
Detail of “St. John the Baptist,” an altarpiece panel available for rare close-quarters viewing at the show in Ghent, Belgium. Gael Turine for The New York Times