Hans Memling, Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hugo van der Goes were amazing artists of the Flemish school of the 15th century. While Italy was in full blown Renaissance, northern Europe was still transitioning from the Gothic style and conventions of the Middle Ages. So these artists were called “primitives”. It’s a term that couldn’t be more misleading.
Hans Memling’s paintings were serene,motionless, expressionless scenes of extreme devotion that was quickly fading in the rest of Europe. He became extremely successful because Europeans who passed through Bruges fell in love with it, took it home with them and thereby affected art making in many other places. His work is exquisite in its painting quality, attention to detail and miniature elements, landscape, and of course ability to tell a story. The Memling Museum is located in the former St. John’s Hospital which actually functioned as a hospital until 1975. The museum has some of Memling’s best work combined with work of some of his peers and various hospital related tools, furniture, and depictions of medical care dating back to the Middle Ages. Upstairs was an interesting photographic exhibit by an American photographer (sorry forgot to write down his name) who spoke with hospitalized patients who were close to death and asked them about their illness, how they felt about dying, what they regret, who they love, do they believe in God (a fair number did not), and how do they want to be remembered. It was powerful especially in this place.