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Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer (1632 - December 15, 1675) was a Dutch painter. Vermeer is also known as Vermeer of Delft or Johannes van der Meer.

Vermeer was born in Delft and stayed there all his life. He was buried in the Old Church (Oude Kerk) in Delft.

Vermeer is after Rembrandt the second most famous Dutch painter of the 17th century (a period which is better known as the Dutch Golden Age for its astonishing cultural and artistic achievements). His paintings are admired for their transparent colours, well though-out composition and brilliant use of light.

Little is known about the life of Vermeer. He married Catharina Bolenes in 1653. In that same year he joined the Sint Lucas painters guild. Later, in 1662 and 1669, he was chosen to preside over the guild. Vermeer did earn a meagre income as an art dealer rather than through selling his paintings. Sometimes he even had to pay his debts to local food stores with a painting. Vermeer died very poor. His widow had to trade all paintings still in her possesion to the city council in return for a small allowance (one source even says this was only one painting, also Vermeer's last work named Clio).

After his death Vermeer was soon forgotten. His paintings were sometimes sold bearing the name of another painter to raise their value. Only very recently has Vermeer been recognised as one of the greats: in 1866 art historian Théophile Thoré (pseudonym of W. Bürger) made a statement to this effect, attributing 76 paintings to Vermeer, a number that was soon lowered by others. At the beginning of the twentieth century rumours ran rampant that there were yet undiscovered Vermeer paintings.

Very few paintings of Vermeer are known today. Only 35 to 40 works that are attributed to him do exist (views on authencity of some works differ).

Table of contents

Technique

Vermeer's transparent colours were produced by bringing the paint unto the canvas in loosely granular layers, a technique called pointillé[?] (not to be confused with Pointillism). It is thought that Vermeer possibly used the Camera Obscura to achieve a perfect perspective in his compositions.

Themes

Almost all of Vermeer's paintings are in house scenes (even the two landscapes that we know are seen from within through a window). He painted mostly genre pieces and portraits. As an exception he left us also two city views.

His painting cover all layers of society, at one time portraying a simple milkmaid at work, at other works showing the luxury and splendour of rich notables and merchantmen in their roomy houses. Religious and scientific connotations can be found in his works.

Influences by other painters

  • Carel Fabricius[?] (1622 - 1654) who spent his final years in Delft. Vermeer's ideas about perspective, and his tendency to paint everyday themes were possibly influenced by Fabricius
  • Italian painter Caravaggio (1573-1610), indirectly through Dutch followers
  • Leonart Bramer, another painter from Delft, and witness to his marriage
  • Dirk van Baburen from whom Vermeer owned a painting (which occurred twice in Vermeer's own paintings).

His Works

Milkmaid 1658-1660

  • Christ in the House of Martha and Mary - Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland - 1654/55
  • Saint Praxidis - Private Collection - 1655
  • Diana and her Companions - The Hague, Mauritshuis - 1655-56
  • The Procuress - Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Zwinger - 1656
  • Girl reading a Letter at an Open Window - Dresden, Gemäldegalerie - 1657
  • A Girl Asleep - New York, Metropolitan Museum - 1657
  • The Little Street - Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum - 1657/58
  • Officer and a Laughing Girl - New York, Frick Collection - 1658
  • The Milkmaid - Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum - 1658/60
  • The Glass of Wine - Berlin, Gemäldegalerie - 1658/60
  • The Girl with the Wineglass - Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum[?] - 1659/60
  • Girl Interrupted at her Music - New York, Frick Collection - 1660/61
  • View of Delft - The Hague, Mauritshuis - 1660/61
  • Woman in Blue reading a Letter - Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum - 1662/64
  • A Lady writing a Letter - Washington DC, National Gallery of Art[?] - 1662/64
  • The Music Lesson - London, Buckingham Palace - 1662/65
  • Woman with a Lute - New York, Metropolitan Museum - 1663
  • Woman with a Pearl Necklace - Berlin, Gemaldegalerie - 1664
  • Woman with a Water Jug - New York, Metropolitan Museum - 1664-65
  • The Girl with a Pearl Earring - The Hague, Mauritshuis - 1665
  • The Concert - Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum[?] - 1665/66
  • A Woman Holding a Balance - Washington, National Gallery - 1665/66
  • Portrait of a Young Woman - New York, Metropolitan Museum - 1666/67
  • The Allegory of Painting - Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum - 1666/67
  • Mistress and Maid - New York, Frick Collection - 1667/68
  • The Astronomer - Paris, Louvre - 1668
  • Girl with a Red Hat - Washington, National Gallery - 1668
  • The Geographer - Frankfurt am Main, Städelsches Kunstinstitut - 1668/69
  • The Lacemaker - Paris, Louvre - 1669/70
  • The Love Letter - Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum - 1669/70
  • Lady writing a Letter with her Maid - Blessington[?], Beit Collection - 1670
  • The Allegory of Faith - New York, Metropolitan Museum - 1671/74
  • The Guitar Player - London, Iveagh Bequest - 1672
  • Lady Standing at the Virginals - London, National Gallery - 1673/75
  • Lady Seated at the Virginals - London, National Gallery - 1673/75

Forgeries

Han van Meegeren (1898-1947) was a Dutch painter who liked to work in the classic tradition. Originally to prove that critics were wrong about his qualities as a painter, he decided to paint a fake Vermeer. Later, he forged more Vermeers and works of other painters, just to get the money. Van Meegeren fooled everyone in the art establishment, and was only taken serious after demonstrating his skills in front of police witnesses (see article about van Meegeren for reasons why). His aptitude at forgery shocked the art world and hence made it even more difficult to assess the authenticiy of works attributed to Vermeer.

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