Autumn Term - Jan van Eyck and his world - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Autumn Term – Jan van Eyck and his world

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Showcasing Art History

Autumn Term 2020


Showcasing Art History 2020-21

Autumn Term – Jan van Eyck and his world

Jan van Eyck and his world: recent discoveries and new research

6 October to 10 December 2020
In two parts of 5 lectures each; £95 per part

Part One: Tuesday 6 October to Thursday 5 November 2020 (Lectures 1-5, with the last Q&A session on 5 Nov)

Part Two: Tuesday 10 November to Thursday 10 December 2020 (Lectures 6-10, with the last Q&A session on 10 Dec)

Please note: due to this course’s popularity both the course and its waiting list are full.


An in-depth look at the art of Jan Van Eyck and his contemporaries. The term, led by Van Eyck specialist Dr Susan Jones, is informed by the latest research, exhibition and conservation projects relating to this towering figure of fifteenth-century Netherlandish art. With contributions by Dr Paula Nuttall and Dr Geoffrey Nuttall.

Course Description

Traditional scholarship has often tried to align Van Eyck with a model of the ideal painter that was fashioned in Renaissance Italy. This lecture series tries instead to understand him in his own time and place, and particularly within the world of painting in Bruges and the Burgundian Netherlands. It considers his techniques and working processes, how he might have understood painting as a medium, and how he deployed it to communicate ideas—including ideas about himself as a painter. A key aspect of the course is its utilisation of new, state-of-the-art, high-resolution imaging of Van Eyck’s paintings made by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) in Brussels, recently published online (

Lectures 1-5: Van Eyck and Painting: Observation, Invention, Interaction

Through selected key works, the first five lectures explore Van Eyck’s highly-seductive—though profoundly ambiguous—pictorial realism. They explore his painting techniques and creative process, and show how his inventions draw on a deep knowledge of the natural world that was exceptional for painters at the period. Given that Van Eyck’s works were valued by courtly and urban elites who expressed their social identity through the ownership of material culture, the course will also investigate his clients, their needs and aspirations, and their potential involvement in shaping pictorial design or content.

Lectures 6-10:  Van Eyck’s Importance in the Fifteenth Century: Workshop, Italy and Antiquity

The second set of lectures proceeds to explore Van Eyck in the particular contexts of the workshop, the city of Bruges and the Burgundian court, as the focus shifts in part to his patronage networks, interactions with other painters and understanding of antiquity—the last topic also examined from the perspective of his reception in Italy. It explores why particular Italian painters or patrons prized Van Eyck, and how he in turn responded to growing demand on an international scale. Finally, it investigates the question of Van Eyck’s workshop and collaborative practices, readdressing some old and sometimes very controversial questions of attribution.


Lecturers’ biographies

Dr Susan Jones is a specialist in Northern European late medieval and Renaissance art. She has been Assistant Curator at The National Gallery, London (1994-96), and Fellow at The Art Institute of Chicago (1998–2001); in addition, she has taught widely both in the U.S. and the U.K.  Between 2014 and 2016, she was Project Manager on the ‘Verona’ project (Van Eyck Research in OpeN Access), based at the Centre for the Study of the Flemish Primitives at the KIK-IRPA (Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage) in Brussels. The Verona project—which brought together art historians, photographers and technicians–was a research and technical documentation campaign focusing on Jan van Eyck and his circle; the results are published online at Aside from her publications on Van Eyck, she is a co-author of Northern European and Spanish Paintings before 1600 in the Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Collection (Yale University Press, 2008).

Dr Geoffrey Nuttall is an independent scholar specializing in early Renaissance Lucchese art and patronage. He teaches widely and is an experienced study tour leader to various Italian destinations. Geoffrey has published widely on Lucca and is currently preparing the book of his Courtauld PhD thesis, Lucca at the Dawn of the Renaissance, as well as co-editing a book on Filippino Lippi.  He has held prestigious fellowships at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California (2014), at the Dutch Institute in Florence (2017), and at the Cini Foundation in Venice (2020).

Dr Paula Nuttall studied art history at the Courtauld.  Her research focuses on artistic relations between the Netherlands and Italy, on which she has published widely, including From Flanders to Florence: the Impact of Netherlandish Painting, 1400-1500 (Yale, 2004).  She has co-curated and advised on exhibitions, including Firenze e gli antichi Paesi Bassi (Florence, Palazzo Pitti, 2008) and most recently Van Eyck: an Optical Revolution (Ghent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, 2020), contributing to the respective catalogues. She is Director of the V&A Medieval and Renaissance Year Course, and was an Associate Lecturer at the Courtauld, where she taught on the Italian Renaissance MA.

Course delivery

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Fees and booking

Please note: due to this course’s popularity both the course and its waiting list are full.

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