van der Goes, alongside the somewhat younger Hieronymus
Bosch, is the most important Netherlandish painter of the second half
of the 15th century. Little is known about his life, and his artistic origins
are also unclear. Records from 1480 state him as being born in Ghent. Since
he was granted the title of master painter in Ghent in 1467, he must have
been born around 1440-1445. As early as 1477, he gave up his workshop and
became a lay brother at the Red Monastery near Brussels, where he died
in 1482 after a severe mental illness.
Portinari Altar (1476-78) is his only authenticated surviving
work, around which others can nevertheless be grouped with some certainty:
The Fall of Adam
one of his earliest surviving works, and several others. Hugo van der Goes
occupies a unique position in painting history because of his insight into
character and class and through his intensely observant, almost surreal,
rendering of nature and space. Hugo’s Portinari Altar, which was erected
in Florence in 1478, exercised a revolutionary influence upon Florentine
painting; it was felt by many of the Florence painters and is reflected
in particular in the works of Ghirlandaio,
Lippi, and Leonardo da Vinci.
Hugo van der Goes. by V. Denis. Berlin. 1964.
Hugo van der Goes. by M. Domscheit. Dresden. 1976.