Monday, October 7, 2013

Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer(1632-1675) was a Dutch painter who is acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age. He was much less known in his own day and was rediscovered by Germain art historian Gustav Friedrich and French art critic Théophile Thoré-Bürge and ranked among the most admired of all Dutch artists at the end of the nineteenth century. He remained obscure for so long because he produced a small number of paintings in his entire 43-years short life. He painted really slowly and he took great care of each of his works. Most of his works depict domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. 

Vermeer is intensely preoccupied with the behavior of light and other optical effects such as sudden recessions and changes of focus. He is good at manipulating light on and around figures to indicate the emotion and build connection between a figure and the viewer. In the painting Girl with a Pearl Earring, the dark background contrasts the tender expression in the girl's eyes. The girl's glance, the subtleness of the pearl earring, and the soft texture of the clothes reflected in the picture attracts so many people and she was praised as "northern Mona Lisa".  This piece was painted around 1665 with oil on canvas and it is only 44.5X39cm(17.5X15in).

Vermeer has great interest in naturalistic effects and most people believe he used the camera obscura to help him observe the slight difference of the light. Vermeer's application of paint reveals extraordinary technical ability and time-consuming care. Most of figures in Vermeer's painting are women and they all reflect a settled, relaxing and self-satisfied feeling. Most of his drawing is like a shot of a dynamic scene. Another famous piece of his The Milkmaid reflects these traits. It was created between 1657 to 1658 with oil on canvas.

Though most of his drawing show daily life of women, his landscape drawings are also masterpieces. View of Delft is an oil painting painted from 1660 to 1661. It was commented by Andrew Graham-Dixon in The Madness of Vermeer that "He took a turbulent reality, and made it look like Heaven on earth."

I was first exposed to the painting The Milkmaid in my middle school textbook but later developed my interest in Vermeer after watching the movie Girl with a Pearl Earring. I was impressed by his devotion to arts that even when he was not wealthy, he picks the most expensive pigment in order to generate best effects. When I look at his drawings, I like the gentle and relaxing feeling conveyed from his management of light. Also, I love the way that he use super delicate brush to depict ordinary scenes in daily life. 


Vermeer, Johannes, 1632-1675. Johannes Vermeer,1632-1675. Washington : National Gallery of Art ; The Hague : Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis ; New Haven : Yale University Press, c1995.

Walter Liedtke. Helbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. <>

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