van der Weyden, also known as Rogier de le Pasture is, with
Jan van Eyck, considered one of the
greatest exponents of the school of Early Netherlandish painting. Rogier
van der Weyden was a Flemish artist born around 1400, which puts him
very early in the Northern Renaissance era. Van der Weyden painted
mostly religious themes,with the exception of several portraits his
worldly work has been lost.
Rogier van der Weyden never signed his work, so art historians to this day are trying to discover which works are his. Most likely Rogier van der Weyden ran a workshop with a large number of assistants and students. Characteristic of his work are the clear composition and the lively use of colors, in which he incorporated much symbolism. His altarpieces are considered his highlights, including the "The Deposition" (shown here).
The Deposition exemplifies the elements that made Rogier's style more popular and influential than even Jan van Eyck's in the second half of the century; where van Eyck's art aims for a realism achieved through the dispassionate recording of the objective world, Rogier attempts to evoke a deep emotion expressed through the use of rhythmic line and rich color. The first thing one notices about the painting is its inverted "T" shape.
Populated by a tight composition of no less than ten life-size figures, Christ is lovingly lowered from the cross as his mother, echoing a pose nearly identical to that of her dead son, collapses at the base of the cross. Each figure from that of Christ himself, to Mary Magdalene is so individually portrayed we have the feeling of watching a passion play. The colors are bold and striking, as natural as if we were looking at a modern photograph, while no detail is neglected, and no pose has an artificial or contrived quality. Van der Weyden probes every different kind of grief in the faces and figures of his mourners while never letting the pathos get out of hand. Given the fact that this was a piece from the early Northern Renaissance, one might almost get the notion that the Renaissance movement spread southward, though actually it seems to have developed in both areas almost simultaneously.
Rogier van der Weyden was born in Tournai as 'Rogier de le Pasture' (Roger of the Pasture) in 1399 or 1400. Rogier van der Weyden's parents were Henri de le Pasture and Agnes de Watrélos. The family had settled before in the city of Tournai where Rogiers father worked as a knife manufacturer. He was a pupil of Jan van Eyck and also of Robert Campin, which certainly gives him the pedigree of greatness. And though he didn't start painting until his late 20's his efforts brought him immediate success. Philip the Good, the Duke of Burgundy, also the brother of the Jean Duc de Berry and Charles V, king of France, made van der Weyden his court painter where his incredibly realistic style quickly spread to countries as far away as Spain and Italy.
Rogier Van der Weyden was able to incorporate the Flemish realism of van Eyck, marrying it to the stark, emotionalism of Robert Campin, and in so doing, evolved a style imbued with such touching human emotion that his work often moved viewers to tears. After he settled in Brussels Rogier began a prosperous career that would make him the most famous painter in Europe at the time he died in 1464. Different properties and investments are documented and witness his material prosperity. The portraits he painted of the Burgundian Dukes, their relatives and courtiers, point to his good relations with the richest and most powerful sovereigns in Europe. Not a single work that can be attributed with certainty (on the basis of documentary evidence) to Rogier van der Weyden survives.
Rogier's most famous paintings were the four vast panels with the 'Justice of Trajan' and the 'Justice of Herkenbald', painted for the Golden Chamber of the Brussels Town Hall. The first and third panels were signed, and the first dated 1439. All four were finished before 1450. They were destroyed in the French bombardment of Brussels in 1695, but are known from many old descriptions, from a free partial copy in tapestry and from other free and partial copies in drawing and painting. As can be seen in still extant paintings attributable to him, Rogier van der Weyden was a master in the depiction of emotions and grief.
Rogier van der Weyden's vigorous, subtle, expressive painting and popular religious conceptions had considerable influence on European painting, not only in France and Germany but also in Italy and in Spain. Hans Memling was his greatest follower, although it is not proven that he was a direct pupil of Rogier. Van der Weyden had also great influence on the German painter and engraver Martin Schongauer whose prints were distributed all over Europe since the last decades of the 15th century. Indirectly Schongauer's prints helped to disseminate Van der Weyden's style. In 1426 Rogier married to Elisabeth, the daughter of the Brussels shoemaker Jan Goffaert and his wife Cathelyne van Stockem.
Many believe his painting "Portrait of a Young Woman" (shown here) is actually a portrait of ogier van der Weyden consists of more than one panel, often triptychs, diptychs or polyptychs. Some of them are dismembered and the parts are kept in different museums. Some panels are only fragmentary remains of lost masterpieces. Rogier van der Weyden died in Brussels in 1464, where he was buried in the St. Gudula Church, now known as the St. Michael's Cathedral. He was reasonably prosperous and renowned during his life. For at least half a century his style was much imitated.