Museums and Art

Artist Robert Kampen: paintings and biography

Artist Robert Kampen: paintings and biography

The name of this painter, who lived at the turn of the XIV-XV centuries, became known only about a hundred years ago, and after all he was one of the founders of the Northern Renaissance, who had a great influence on the development of European painting.

It was an almost detective story. The fact is that art historians have long paid attention to several portraits and church paintings by an unknown medieval artist, stored in museums around the world. Differences in the manner of writing did not allow attributing them to any artist who lived at that time. Yes, and the authors in the Middle Ages have not yet signed their works, therefore, in honor of one of the works - the altar for the Flemal monastery - they began to call him the master from Flemal.

And only at the beginning of the XX century, as a result of painstaking searches in the archives, careful comparisons of facts and dates, it was possible to establish the name of this Flemish painter - Robert Kampen.

There is almost no information about the beginning of his life. It is believed that he was most likely born around 1378 in Valenciennes, which was the capital of the county of Gennegau.

The first mention of him as an artist, found in archival records, dates back to 1406, and after four years he acquires several houses and becomes a citizen of Tournai. This allowed him to take the position of urban painter.

The master’s affairs are doing well, in addition to works for the city, he carries out orders from monasteries and wealthy citizens. Robert puts a lot of skill and soul into the writing of folding altars, both at home, small in size, and painted to the full height.

However, his depictions of biblical subjects are beginning to differ more and more from the then accepted traditions. The golden background in the paintings is replaced by a detailed landscape, the saints become like living people, the action is transferred to the atmosphere of cozy Dutch houses, the details of the interior and clothes are carefully spelled out (Triptych “Annunciation”).

His talent and skill are most fully revealed in the magnificent performance of the Flemish Altar - Saint Veronica appears before us as an ordinary living woman, the image of the Savior Not Made by Hands is incredibly faithfully written on the fabric in her hands. The Holy Trinity, painted in shades of gray using the grisaille technique, seems like a sculpture.

A large number of orders allowed him in 1418 to open his workshop and recruit the first group of students. Many talented young men were trained in his workshop, including Jacques Dore and Rogier van der Weyden, who graduated in 1432 and later became famous artists.

In 1423, the Tournais craft workshops revolted against the authority of the patricians who headed the city, in which Robert Kampen also took an active part. After the victory of the rebels, he was elected to the city council, but soon the patricians again became the head of the city administration. Taking into account the influence and great authority of the artist, the masters are sentenced to a fine and pilgrimage. But this did not greatly affect the life of the painter, he still continues to do what he loves.

In addition to the altar paintings, he writes cardboard for tapestries and tapestries, creates sketches for embroidery (“The Pokrovets with Christ”).

One of the first Kampen begins to paint unusually real portraits of people in which he manages to convey the inner world of man. Images are distinguished by their individuality and the finest details written out in jewelry (“Woman's Portrait”, “Portrait of a Man in a Red Turban”).

Little is known about Robert Kampen's personal life. He married quite late, his wife was 7 years older than him. Not mentioned in the archives and about his children. Kampen died in the city of Tournai in 1444. His contribution to the development of Dutch art is hard to overestimate. The artist’s creations rightfully occupy a worthy place among the masterpieces of the Northern Renaissance.


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