Rogier van der Weyden
Rogier van der Weyden, an artist from the Early Flemish period, mainly painted portraits and paintings with religious subjects. His works were exported from his workshop to several different patrons throughout the European nations, including nobility and royalty who lived as far as Italy and Spain. Van der Weyden became even more popular than Jan van Eyck by the middle 1400s, and after his death in 1464 his works remained in demand until the 1600s.
His parents named him Rogelet de la Pasture, as his father, Henri de la Pasture, carried a French name. The artist later converted it to its Dutch counterpart when he moved to the predominantly Dutch-speaking city of Brussels. His mother, Agnes de Watrélos, gave birth to him (either in 1399 or in 1400) in Tournai, a city which lies in present-day Belgium. Most of the records concerning his life and artwork have been lost, especially on two separate occasions; once in 1695, in a fire, and again in the 1940s, because of WWII. The solid facts that do remain are few, but important, as they paint a picture of his life in the 1400s.
His marriage to Elisabeth Goffaert was recorded in 1426. Her father, Jan Goffaert,was known to be a shoemaker hailing from Brussels, and her mother was Cathelyne van Stockem. Van der Weyden and Elisabeth had four children; two, Cornelius and Margeretha were born in Tournai, and the younger two, Pieter and Jan, were born in Brussels.
Notes concerning his training include a statement that he had been learning painting from Robert Campin, from 1427-1432. One belief is that he had begun to outshine his teacher and then he finally joined the Painters’ Guild of St Luke in Tournai as a master painter in August of 1432. It was considered a late age for van der Weyden to be still studying under a master. Because the painters' guild in the city of Tournai was undergoing some turmoil in the second decade of the 1400s, it’s suggested that van der Weyden’s entry as a student in Campin’s workshop may have meant that the town wasn’t accepting new painters into the guild for some time. It would be reasonable to believe that van der Weyden was forced to take employment as a student under a registered painter, until such time that new legal applications were being accepted in the St Luke’s Guild.
In 1435, he and his family moved to Brussels where he opened a workshop and gained in popularity for his superb painting skills. It was also then that he changed his name to Rogier van der Weyden. His masterpiece, titled Deposition, was completed in 1435 and with it he immediately won international fame. On March 2, 1436, he became the leading town painter of the city of Brussels, which at the time was the seat of the Burgundy court, so it was a very important position. Other information than that found in exacting documents is partially conjecture or assumption, and taken from second or third party sources. As went his records, so did his artwork. Few of his works survived destruction, the major losses occurring mostly in the 1700s. The remaining pieces were often attributed to other artists by historians in the 1800s, and only credited to him after much investigation in the 1900s.
Van der Weyden became a major influence on many artists in Northern Europe because of his new painting techniques which created new effects with lines and colors. His portraits were usually half length works, with the subjects painted at half profile, with what is called “a sympathetic expression”. He was famous for his rich colorization of his figures, which gave them warmth and life, and even more amazing was that he never used the same color or tones on the different areas of the painting he was working on; he even used various shades of white. Van der Weyden used live models for his subjects, and was known to soften their features and add idealistic touches to make them more beautiful than true to life. Some of his works are The Descent from the Cross (1435), The Seven Sacraments (1445) and The Braque Triptych (1452).
Rogier van der Weyden was one of the three most famous and influential painters in Flemish history. His style and technique was innovative and inspirational to artists of his generation and those following into the later centuries. The other two extraordinary artists were Robert Campin (1375-1444) and Jan van Eyck (1395-1441), who were both contemporaries of van der Weyden. When it comes to a vote, van der Weyden still remains widely accepted as the most influential of the 15th century Northern painters.