The Flemish primitives: a brilliant high point in the history of Art

Painting of the 15th and early 16th Century in the Southern Low Countries is a brilliant high point in the history of art. These painters are generally referred to as the "Flemish primitives". It is an artistic flourishing period that is distinguished by a highly-permeating refinement of oil painting and by an assiduousness to reproduce the visible world in as detailed manner as possible. This realism is also applied to the religious imagery or iconography. Moreover, the Flemish primitives emphasise a previously unseen religious expressivity that ushers in a new tradition in painting. The commissions not only came from the various courts and religious institutions, but also from the cities and their citizenry. For the first time, the painter received a very prominent position in the society. Through contacts amongst Flanders, Northern Italy and other regions on the continent, this typical Flemish art of painting influenced all of Europe.

For this website, inevitable choices were made over which artists from the Flemish collections would or would not be catalogued as a "Flemish primitive". For this reason, we solicit our attempt to define the term "Flemish primitives" and to catalogue the artists from this period and from our collections. Curious about how we proceeded with this? Read this text.

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