Frankfurt, Germany - The Master of Flémalle (frequently identified with the artist Robert Campin, active in Tournai) and Rogier van der Weyden (who demonstrably worked in Campin’s workshop from 1427 to 1432) are – besides the van Eyck brothers – of crucial importance for the birth and the beginnings of Early Netherlandish painting. They stand for the discovery of the visible world which they were able to represent in hitherto unknown realistic detail thanks to the sophisticated new technique of oil painting. Though the Master of Flémalle and Rogier van der Weyden number among the most important and innovative fifteenth-century European artists and their opulently detailed narrative paintings belong to the most beautiful and popular works of art from the turn of the late Middle Ages to the early modern age, there has been no monographic exhibition focusing on these two painters and their work to date –irrespective of the fact that the differentiation between the two oeuvres is still controversial.
Four monumental monographic books, arriving at partly radically divergent conclusions concerning this issue, have been dedicated to the two artists only in recent years. Under these circumstances, the exhibition organized by the Städel Museum together with the Gemäldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin offers a splendid opportunity to arrive at persuasive answers based on direct comparison in this contentious matter.
In addition to Hubert and Jan van Eyck, two artists are of pivotal significance for the dawn and early development of this painting: the so-called Master of Flémalle and Rogier van der Weyden. Their production is closely interlinked, which has given rise to fundamental problems in distinguishing the two masters’ works until today since the paintings are neither signed nor dated. This is why the understanding of these most important and influential artists of the fifteenth century has remained so strangely diffuse and controversial.
While the world-famous “painter to the town of Brussels” Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400–1464) presents himself as a clearly defined historical personality according to the sources of the time, the situation is more complex in the Master of Flémalle’s case. When confronted with the latter we are dealing with an artificial figure, a creation by the critique of styles, which may only be associated with a historical person with some reservations. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, the Städel Museum’s holdings comprise three impressive panels which gave the Master of Flémalle his name, because the works were erroneously believed to have originated in Flémalle, a place situated in the Maas Valley near Liège: a Madonna nursing her child; Saint Veronica presenting her veil with the Holy Face on it; and a Holy Trinity, a representation of God the Father holding his dead son in his arms and the dove of the Holy Ghost. Once wings of an otherwise lost monumental retable, these panels, together with the van Eyck brothers’ Ghent Altarpiece rank among the most outstanding works of Early Netherlandish painting.
Both the Städel Museum in Frankfurt and the Gemäldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin boast incomparable holdings as regards the Master of Flémalle and Rogier van der Weyden, which will be brought together in this exhibition for the first time. The show will also comprise numerous superb loans from the great museums of the world such as the National Gallery in London, the Museo del Prado in Madrid, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
More than 50 masterpieces by the two artists – i.e., nearly all surviving and transportable paintings – will be assembled for the occasion. Many of the works have never been lent out before, most of the works will be presented together for the first time. The show thus provides a unique occasion to experience the visual world of two of the most important and influential fifteenth-century artists in a hitherto unknown quality and density. For the Städel Museum and its high-caliber collection of Early Netherlandish painting, this exhibition represents a landmark for the research in this field intensely pursued at the institution for many years.
Curator: Prof. Dr. Jochen Sander, Deputy Director and Curator for German, Dutch and Flemish Painting of the Städel Museum
Research assistance: Gabriel Dette, M. A.; Dr. Bastian Eclercy, Städel Museum
Since its foundation, the Städel Museum – which has also accommodated the collection of the Städtische Galerie (municipal gallery) since 1907 – has expanded its holdings continually by pursuing an active acquisition policy. Altogether the collection presently comprises some 2,700 paintings, 600 sculptures and more than 100,000 drawings and prints. With its rich holdings, the Städel Museum presents an overview of seven hundred years of European art history – beginning with the early fourteenth century and covering the Renaissance, the Baroque, Early Modern and contemporary art. Among the highlights of this comprehensive collection are works by Holbein the Younger, Cranach the Elder, Dürer, Botticelli, Rembrandt and Vermeer, Degas, Matisse, Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Kirchner, Beckmann and Klee, Bacon, Klein, Serra, Richter and Kippenberger. Visit : www.staedelmuseum.de/