Artist Jan van Eyck was a Flemish painter and one of the leading artists of the Northern Renaissance. Van Eyck mastered the art of oil painting, which was a new invention at the time. He is considered one of the most talented painters of 15th century Europe and is best known for his highly realistic figure painting, usually on religious subjects (again, Renaissance), and portrait art. His three-quarter pose of face together with his mastery of oils brought a surprising new realism to portraiture, and made him one of the foremost painters of the Northern Renaissance, much in demand by the emerging bourgeoisie and merchant class.
Born in Maaseik, Belgium around 1395, little is known of his early life. It is thought that the painter Hubert van Eyck was his brother. Another younger brother, Lambert van Eyck is mentioned in court documents and it is thought he may have been a painter too.
The Ghent Altarpiece is considered his first masterpiece, followed closely by the Arnolfini Portrait. Van Eyck's ability to manipulate oil paints to produce realistic representations of the natural world is why he became so popular.