Johannes Vermeer, 1632 – 1675, was a Dutch painter who specialized in domestic paintings. He was a moderately successful painter in his lifetime, but he was not wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death. Vermeer painted mostly domestic interior scenes. Most of his paintings were apparently set in two small rooms in his house in Delft. You can see that his pictures have the same furniture and decorations in various arrangements and they usually focus on women.
Vermeer produced fewer than 50 paintings in his lifetime (34 have survived). Only three Vermeer paintings are dated: The Procuress (1656; Gemäldegalerie, Dresden); The Astronomer (1668; Musée du Louvre, Paris); and The Geographer (1669; Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt).
The Astronomer 1668
Jan Vermeer was recognized during his lifetime in his immediate cities of Delft and The Hague, but his modest celebrity gave way to obscurity after his death. He was barely mentioned in Arnold Houbraken's major source book on 17th-century Dutch painting (Grand Theatre of Dutch Painters and Women Artists) and was completely omitted from subsequent surveys of Dutch art for the next two centuries. In the 19th century, Vermeer was rediscovered by Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Théophile Thoré-Bürger, who published an essay attributing 66 pictures to him, although only 34 paintings are universally attributed to him today. Since that time, Vermeer's reputation has grown, and he is now acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age.
The Little Street in Delft 1657-1661
One aspect of his meticulous painting technique was Vermeer's choice of pigments. He is best known for his frequent use of the very expensive ultramarine, as in the Milkmaid, and lead-tin-yellow, as in a Lady Writing a Letter, madder lake, as in Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, and vermilion. He also painted with ochres, bone black and azurite. The claim that he utilized Indian yellow in Woman Holding a Balance, has been disproven by later pigment analysis.
Lady standing at the Virginal 1670-1674
Vermeer's works were largely overlooked by art historians for two centuries after his death. A select number of connoisseurs in the Netherlands did appreciate his work, yet even so, many of his works were attributed to better-known artists such as Metsu or Mieris. The Delft master's modern rediscovery began about 1860, when German museum director Gustav Waagen saw The Art of Painting in the Czernin gallery in Vienna and recognized the work as a Vermeer, but it was attributed to Pieter de Hooch at that time. Research by Théophile Thoré-Bürger culminated in the publication of his catalogue raisonné of Vermeer's works in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts in 1866. Thoré-Bürger's catalogue drew international attention to Vermeer and listed more than 70 works by him, including many that he regarded as uncertain. The accepted number of surviving Vermeer paintings today is 34.
Girl with the wine glass detail 1659-1662
Vermeer's painting techniques have long been a source of debate, given their almost photorealistic attention to detail, despite Vermeer's having had no formal training, and despite only limited evidence that Vermeer had created any preparatory sketches or traces for his paintings.
In 2001, British artist David Hockney published the book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters, in which he argued that Vermeer (among other Renaissance and Baroque artists including Hans Holbein and Diego Velázquez) used optics to achieve precise positioning in their compositions, and specifically some combination of curved mirrors, camera obscura, and camera lucida. This became known as the Hockney–Falco thesis, named after Hockney and Charles M. Falco, another proponent of the theory. Professor Philip Steadman published the book Vermeer's Camera: Uncovering the Truth behind the Masterpieces in 2001 which specifically claimed that Vermeer had used a camera obscura to create his paintings. Steadman noted that many of Vermeer's paintings had been painted in the same room, and he found six of his paintings that are precisely the right size if they had been painted from inside a camera obscura in the room's back wall.
Supporters of these theories have pointed to evidence in some of Vermeer's paintings, such as the often-discussed sparkling pearly highlights in Vermeer's paintings, which they argue are the result of the primitive lens of a camera obscura producing halation. It was also postulated that a camera obscura was the mechanical cause of the "exaggerated" perspective seen in The Music Lesson (London, Royal Collection).
In 2008, American entrepreneur and inventor Tim Jenison developed the theory that Vermeer had used a camera obscura along with a "comparator mirror", which is similar in concept to a camera lucida but much simpler and makes it easy to match color values. He later modified the theory to simply involve a concave mirror and a comparator mirror. He spent the next five years testing his theory by attempting to re-create The Music Lesson himself using these tools, a process captured in the 2013 documentary film Tim's Vermeer.
Several points were brought out by Jenison in support of this technique: First was Vermeer's hyper-accurate rendition of light falloff along the wall (human eyes cannot detect such slight differences in light
The Lacemaker 1669-1671
Upon the rediscovery of Vermeer's work, several prominent Dutch artists modelled their style on his work, including Simon Duiker. Other artists who were inspired by Vermeer include Danish painter Wilhelm Hammershoi and American Thomas Wilmer Dewing. In the 20th century, Vermeer's admirers included Salvador Dalí, who painted his own version of The Lacemaker (on commission from collector Robert Lehman) and pitted large copies of the original against a rhinoceros in some surrealist experiments. Dali also immortalized the Dutch Master in The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table, 1934.
Salvador Dali’s The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table, 1934
No window, no letter, no musical instruments, not even a pearl earring: young woman in a pink dress is not what most people think of as a painting by the 17th century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, but newly authenticated as his earliest surviving work it is coming up for auction estimated at up to £8m.
Saint Praxedis 1665
Although the painting is signed and dated, experts have been arguing about the painting of Saint Praxedis for decades, since it was first suggested that it was a genuine early work by the artist, painted when he was 23, newly converted to Catholicism and heavily influenced by Italian art.
In summation Art Historian Caroline Elbaor summed up Johannes Vermeer, the mecutrial artis perfectly: In an article published in ARTNET NEWS on October 31, 2016 writer Caroline Elbaor, wrote:
The Procuress (detail of a self portrait?) Johannes Vermeer 1656
“For centuries, the painter was a mysterious figure in art history, with very little known about his personal life, thus earning him the nickname “The Sphinx of Delft.”
Here, we’ve sleuthed around and gathered up six facts about Vermeer to shed more light on the once overlooked painter.
1.) His artistic achievements went largely unnoticed throughout his life and in the centuries that followed. Though Vermeer now holds his place in history books as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age, he wasn’t always so admired. Until the 19th century, he enjoyed little-to-no success as an artist, and many of his pieces were credited as the work of other Dutch artists, including Metsu and Mieris. It was only after the publication of Théophile Thoré-Bürger’s catalogue raisonné of Vermeer’s works in 1866—resulting in rapid attention and exposure—that his work gained renown for its lifelike depictions of middle-class life, set in photo-realistic interiors of homes.
2.) The Dutch Master had no formal training, suggesting he was self-taught. Because evidence and details surrounding his life are still minimal, where and under whom—if anybody—Vermeer apprenticed remains a mystery. Naturally, theories about his influences abound, but the general consensus, first posited by American art historian Walter Liedtke, is that Vermeer was a self-taught man.
3.) There are only 36 authenticated paintings by Vermeer in the world. Vermeer was an intensely methodical painter, working carefully and with great attention to detail. Therefore, the artist’s output was limited; at present, he only has 36 canvases to his name. Moreover, Vermeer signed none of his works, and he dated only three (The Procuress, 1656; The Geographer, 1668–1669; and The Astronomer, 1668), thus challenging scholars who attempt to authenticate a work. To add to the confusion, experts are reluctant to declare a painting a Vermeer due to his far-reaching influence on other painters, as well as the threat of fakes.
4.) In the late 1930s and early ’40s, a copycat artist forged and sold works he marketed as newly discovered Vermeer’s. From 1938 to 1945, Han van Meegeren created paintings he passed off as original Vermeer’s, fooling experts and collectors alike, in a move that earned him what would be roughly $30 million today. It was only after World War II that a strange turn of events revealed van Meegeren’s forgeries. Having sold a painting to the prominent Nazi deputy Hermann Goering, van Meegeren defended himself against accusations of collaborating with the Nazis by revealing that he had dealt Goering a fake. As such, van Meegeren then proceeded to call himself a hero for having “hoodwinked” the enemy. He was nevertheless convicted of fraud and sentenced to a year in prison.
5.) In 1971, Vermeer’s Love Letter was stolen from the Fine Arts Palace in Brussels in an ill-devised heist. On September 23, 1971, a twenty-one-year-old man named Mario Roymans broke into the Fine Arts Palace in Brussels and stole Love Letter, which was on loan from Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum as part of the Rembrandt and his Age exhibition. The painting was severely damaged due to the thief’s recklessness during the two weeks in which it was missing. When Roymans discovered that Love Letter was too big to fit through the window he planned to abscond through, he removed it from the frame with a potato peeler and stuffed the canvas in his back pocket. He later buried it in the forest where it sustained water damage, and hid it under his mattress, where it was crushed. After Love Letter was recovered, an international committee of Vermeer experts was convened to restore the painting.”
The Girl with the Pearl Earring 1665-1667
Not Just rediscovered by the Art World……
As Vermeer’s fortunes changed, with respect to the art world so too did they gain public recognition and popularity.
Vermeer’s The Girl with the pearl earring experienced a surge in popularity towards the end of the 20th Century. The turning point was an international Vermeer exhibition that opened at the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 1995. The Girl was chosen as the image for the accompanying poster – and her celebrity status was assured. In Tracy Chevalier published in 1999 a novel titled The Girl with the Pearl Earring.
“She makes the perfect poster,” “The colors, the light, the simplicity of the image, that direct gaze: a lot of Vermeer’s paintings are people not looking at us, in their own world, but she draws us in. In that way she’s very modern. When you think about the Mona Lisa, she is also looking at us, but she isn’t engaging – she’s sitting back in the painting, self-contained. Whereas Girl with a Pearl Earring is right there – there is nothing between her and us. She has this magical quality of being incredibly open and yet mysterious at the same time – and that is what makes her so appealing.”
Be Sure to browse our Counted Cross Stitch or Counted Needlepoint Patterns Inspired by Vermeer's work!
Princess with a Pearl Earring!
Kate Middleton Comes Face-to-Face with Iconic Dutch Painting 2016
For Further Exploration:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEior-0inxU- A fantastic 2001 documentary, with a huge chunk exploring Vermeer's composition methods and techniques. Narrated by Meryl Streep