With Van Eyck (1382-1441?), painting entered a new era. His new technical methods and discovery of a more a pliable medium his colors immediately freed the artist of his time from many of the restraints imposed by the rigidity of the earlier mediums. A more natural definition of form certainly took the place of the conventional drawing of the past centuries, and color was used more expressively than had before been possible. In other words, what Van Eyck accomplished was a demonstration, through his medium and technique, of the possibilities an artist now had of depicting anything he saw with nearly perfect realism.
Van Eyck's medium has been the most difficult of all to reconstruct, in the first place because he lived so long ago and secondly, because his followers left us little information to work on. Despite the fact that there is no written account of his discovery, he is known to be the link between tempera and oil painting. The best documentary evidence is to be found in the life of Antonello da Messina by Giorgio Vasari. The first edition of Vasari's work appeared in 1560, a hundred and fifty years after Van Eyck's discovery.
At the time Vasari wrote, Van Eyck's medium was no longer used by the Italian painters; they had adopted that of Antonello da Messina which was much easier to use. Vasari does not specify the differences in formula which distinguished these two processes and this seems surprising in an age when tradition generally was preserved for so long. One is inclined to believe that, although Van Eyck's invention was so widely recognized that he was generally looked upon as the father of oil painting, the new process of Antonello had so completely supplanted it in use that Van Eyck's method itself had been forgotten.
Writing of Van Eyck, Vasari said: "After having taken great pains to execute a, painting and to bring it to a successful result, he varnished it and exposed it to the sun to dry,