Room 60

A revolution in painting

The 15th century was a period of radical change in European painting. In the Low Countries, Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden exploited the full potential of painting in oil. They used this versatile medium to convey different textures and the varying effects of light and shade, creating convincing illusions of three-dimensional form that captivated artists and patrons all over Europe. Cosimo Tura, who worked for the Este court in Ferrara, was one of the first Italian painters to adopt these technical innovations.

Further south, artists in Tuscany also aspired to produce pictures that looked more true to life, although they tended to paint in the much less flexible medium of egg tempera. Masaccio’s naturalistic figures were inspired by his careful study of ancient and contemporary sculpture, while Antonio and Piero del Pollaiuolo were interested in the movement of the human body. Paolo Uccello was celebrated for his ability to foreshorten objects, figures, and horses. His works, and those of Piero della Francesca, reflect new ideas about linear perspective.