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Johannes Vermeer

A Dutch painter born in 1632, Johannes Vermeer had a short and relatively unproductive career: he completed forty paintings, 35 of which have been found and authenticated.  It was not until the 19th Century that the biographers became interested in his work.
The few documents and personal accounts from artists helped to reconstruct the key moments in his life, but he is still a mysterious figure. This led
Thoré Burger, a journalist for the Fine Arts Gazette and the first to take an interest in Vermeer, to nickname him “the Sphinx of Delft”.


Vermeer, origins

Vermeer’s father, a wealthy innkeeper and art dealer, allowed his son to live in an artistic environment. He also chose an artistic training for his son in the highly respected Guild of Saint Luke”.
On his father’s death in 1652, Johannes took over his business as an art dealer. A year later, he married Catharina Bolnes, daughter of a rich Catholic family, having first dispelled the family’s reticence by converting to their religion.
Johannes’ financial situation was far from flourishing at the time. Despite constant help from his mother-in-law, with whom Vermeer and his wife lodged for a time, his difficulties continued to increase: crippled with debt, responsible for a family of
fifteen children (five of whom died in their infancy), the Vermeer family’s fortunes took a terrible turn on the death of the man is thought to have commissioned most of his paintings, Pieter Claesz Van Ruijven, a tax collector from Delft and a great collector of paintings.
Thereafter, the background of war between England and the United Provinces was to remove any hope of restoring the situation. His wife said on his death, which occurred suddenly in 1675: “For this reason, and because of the amount of money that had to be spent on the children, which he did not have the personal resources to keep up with, he was so saddened and became so weak that his health failed him and he died within a day and a half”.

Vermeer, a painter ignored

In 1663, Balthasar de Monconys, a French chronicler and art lover, reported that, having visited Vermeer and asked to see his works, he was told to go to a baker’s shop: Vermeer in fact paid his creditors with his paintings. De Monconys therefore underestimated his artistic output and described his paintings as objects of little value. He said of one painting: "[...] it had cost 1,000 pounds, whereas I thought that 6 pistoles would have been more than enough”.
However, it appears that Vermeer enjoyed a reputation as an innovative artist in the Dutch town, which was attached to the House of Orange,. He was admitted to the Guild of Saint Luke as a master, then as Chairman of the Board, and was recognised by his peers as a painter of quality and an art expert.
He was invited to The Hague with other artists to authenticate paintings bought by Frederick-William, Great Elector of Brandenburg. But it is likely that his reputation was limited to the little province of Delft.

Vermeer, a painter of the private

Johannes Vermeer’s early paintings show obvious signs of the influence of Jacob Van Loo and Carel Fabritius, the disciple of the more gifted Rembrandt.
But Vermeer is better known for his scenes of private life in which he chooses to let the characters’ inner life take precedence over their mundane activity. The artist manages to communicate emotions by disregarding any idea of a story or anecdote. Vermeer was sensitive to the tactile qualities of the materials and fabrics, and mastered the treatment and use of light; he also used colour in “outlines” with the sole aim of giving some relief to objects. His preference for blue and yellow and a desire to make the fall of a fabric almost palpable can be seen in three of his most popular oil paintings, “The Milkmaid” "
Girl with a Pearl Earring” and “The Lacemaker”.
Some experts have put forward the theory that Vermeer used a
camera obscura, as it has been proved that he never traced the usual preparatory lines before starting to paint. In fact, Vermeer had a total mastery of the techniques specific to his art: harmonious perspectives and proportions and a refined choice of pigments. All of which reinforces this impression of unreal perfection.


- The Lacemaker

- The Girl in a Turban

- The Milkmaid

Johannes Vermeer 's products at Nouvelles Images

> Postcards

Postcards The Young Woman wearing a Turban (detail)

Nationality(ies) : Dutch
Born on : 1632
Died on : 1675
Profile : Painter
Artistic current(s) : Baroque
Theme(s) covered : Fine Art, Portraits - Characters