Bio: Rogier van der Weyden

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Rogier van der Weyden was a Flemish painter- a leading artist of the mid-15th century. He was known principally for his sensitive, deeply moving renderings of religious themes.

Rogier was born in Tournai, Flanders (now in Belgium); although details of his early training are sketchy, it is generally accepted that he entered the workshop of the painter Robert Campin in Tournai in 1427 and became a licensed master in 1432. In 1435 he was appointed the official painter of the city of Bruges (now in Belgium), where he spent most of the rest of his life. His many paintings—primarily such religious works as altarpieces, but also including portraits—are undated and unsigned, and the chronology of his career rests almost entirely on stylistic analysis. Rogier's paintings, like those of other contemporary Netherlandish masters (particularly those of Jan van Eyck), are precise and highly detailed, although Rogier during his career moved toward a new technique of light and shadow that emphasized the central figure of the painting while subduing other elements. His early works, before 1430, present scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, as in the Annunciation (circa 1425, Museo del Prado, Madrid); these paintings closely resemble those of his master Campin but exhibit greater emotional and dramatic intensity than Campin achieved. Rogier's mature works, between 1430 and 1450, show an increasing interest in the theme of Christ's passion. They are characterized by cold colors, by rhythmic elongated lines (particularly evident in fluttering robes and draperies), by the elegant mannered poses of the figures, and especially by a tragic religious intensity that reached a peak in three versions of The Crucifixion (circa 1440).

Rogier introduced several important innovations that influenced later Netherlandish painting, such as the use of gilt backgrounds, as in the Descent from the Cross (Prado); confined architectural settings that defined the space of the scene, as in Standing Virgin (Art History Museum, Vienna); and the device of placing a rear-view figure in the painting's foreground in order to create a closed, unified pattern, as in Marriage of the Virgin (Prado). After 1450, following a trip to Italy, where Rogier was exposed to the painting of the Italian Renaissance, his work became softer, more realistically human and less mystically intense, particularly in such late masterpieces as Adoration of the Magi (Alte Pinakothek, Munich).

Rogier was one of the most influential north European 15th-century painters not only in the Netherlands but also in Spain, Italy, France, and Germany, to which many of his commissioned paintings were sent. He died in Brussels on June 16, 1464.

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