Sunday, March 2, 2014

Johannes Vermeer

When going through the books on great artists, I came across paintings by the master painter Johannes Vermeer, an artist who I had never heard about. But I was fascinated by how Vermeer approached light; in my opinion, lighting is one of the more difficult aspects of art. When drawing, I've had difficulty depicting how light falls on items, so I greatly appreciated Vermeer’s works. For instance, the following painting is a part of a pair of works Vermeer painted of the great scientist, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek.

The Geographer, Johannes Vermeer, 1669. Oil on Canvas

Vermeer, now recognized as one of the greatest painters in history, was for a very long time a "forgotten" artist. He was born in Delft, in the Dutch Republic, in the year 1632. He was born to a middle class family, as his father owned and operated a tavern, while also operating an art dealership. Though the exact details are unknown, Vermeer was probably apprenticed to an established painter, where he learned his craft. During this time, Vermeer seems to have gained a liking for using lapis lazuli for blue dyes and Indian Yellow for yellow colors, which can be seen in many of his paintings, such as The Girl With the Pearl Earring seen below. As a result, Vermeer's painting were more expensive in general, as these dyes were imported from Asia.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer, c 1665. Oil on Canvas

Vermeer did not create many paintings, perhaps as a result of using these expensive dyes.  Only 34 paintings are universally attributed to Vermeer, though many fakes exist of his works. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Vermeer liked to depict scenes of lower and middle class life- as a result, he had no influential patron, and often had to rely on funds from his mother-in-law. The following painting was of a Simple Milkmaid, but used Vermeer's characteristically expensive paints. I really like how the figures in his painting have a very solid value; Vermeer shades his subjects very well, and depicts the lighting very well.

The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer, c 1658. Oil on Canvas

Perhaps as a result, Vermeer was not a rich man. While he gained local fame in his home city of Delft, Vermeer was not internationally recognized during his lifetime, and died deeply in debt. For two centuries, he was essentially ignored, until his work was rediscovered in the mid 1860s. Research by art historians caused Vermeer's works to be rediscovered and recatalogued. As a result, many Dutch artists of the 20th centuries, and famous artists such as Salvador Dali, modeled their works after him.   Dali modeled a painting of his after Vermeer's The Art of Painting

The Art of Painting, Johannes Vermeer, c 1666. Oil on Canvas

The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table, Salvador Dali,  1934. Oil on Canvas

I really like Vermeer because of his use of color.I think he depicts faces especially well, which is a hard task to master.  But most of all, I think his depiction of light is very masterful- he shows how light dapples on the faces of his subjects very well. His paintings are very realistic, and though his drawings have not survived, his mastery of shape, value and weight can clearly be seen in his paintings I also especially like his subjects; I think his paintings of normal life are more interesting than depictions of royalty . I think that by modelling my drawings on Vermeer, I can learn a lot about accurate depictions when drawing.

Cant, Serena. Vermeer and His World, 1632-1675. London: Quercus, 2009. Print.
Villa, Renzo, and Johannes Vermeer. Vermeer: The Complete Works. Cinisello Balsamo, Milano: Silvana, 2012. Print. 

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