Johannes Vermeer Biography | Oil Paintings
10-31-1632 Delft, NED - 12-16-1675 Delft, NED
Johannes Vermeer was a painter of the soul, peace and light. He spent his short life in the town of Delft, where he supported his large family by working as an innkeeper and art dealer. This partly explains the very limited number of his known works. The earliest ones, already distinguished by their fine handling, depict religious and mythological scenes in medium to large format paintings, more or less in the style of the Delft school from 1656 onward, Johannes Vermeer began devoting himself to motifs taken from everyday life, encouraged by the various artists of the time, including Gerard Ter Borch, with whom he was in contact. This choice resulted in unforgettable masterpieces, the fruit of the artist's patient, meticulous technique.
Although his work is reminiscent of fifteenth-century Flemish art, especially in his use of color and the value given to the smallest details, Vermeer interpreted the scenes with his own novel sensibility. He lived a simple life, but he established important friendships, particularly with Antoine van Leeuwenhoek, the great Delft scientist who invented the microscope. This may be an interesting key to understanding the miracle of Vermeer's painting, which lies in the revelation of the secret life of little things that light unveils to those who have eyes, heart, and patience and explains his sensitive portraits of thinkers and scholars, in which their intelligence, application, intuition, and concentration emerge, almost spreading the light of genius and knowledge.
Vermeer and The Everyday Miracle of Light.
Johannes Jan Vermeer studied painting under Carel Fabritius. In 1653 he entered the Guild of St Luke taking the role of the head there in 1662 and 1670. Diffident and a poor businessman, he died young, leaving a widow and eight children destitute. He was almost forgotten until 1860 when he was rediscovered and works that had before been attributed to other artists were identified as coming from his brush.
Johannes Vermeer specialized in small paintings of domestic scenes, distinguished by their perspective and clever use of light to create subtle tones, as well as the fact that, unusual for the time, the figures in them are self-absorbed. The Lacemaker is one of Vermeer's most famous paintings, though it is rather atypical. Unlike his interior scenes, the girl intent on the lacework is depicted in close-up. Thus the image focuses on the figure, while the surrounding space is reduced to neutral ground. Perhaps it is this simplicity that gives the painting its exquisite charm.
Only about 40 paintings have been credited to Johannes Vermeer, but they are enough to establish him as one of the more original and innovative painters of his time, second only to Rembrandt Van Rijn. Vermeer was a master at painting clothes and garments but especially how he illuminated his subjects and objects in natural light.
A Girl, A Pearl, A Secret.
Vermeer should not be considered a portraitist, as he cannot be strictly considered a landscape painter. Nonetheless, his work includes such splendid examples of portraits, still lifes, and landscapes that they alone are enough to guarantee him a place of honor in each of these genres. With perfect grace and tact, Vermeer delves into the secrets of the female soul. Vermeer's female figures have given rise to a great deal of speculation in an attempt to identify them as his wife, sister, or other relatives. The classic example is the Girl with a Pearl Earring. Although the girl remains unidentified, she has become the symbol of Vermeer's work. This is a painting of great precision and freshness, in which the light penetrates the pigment, seeming to give it an inner warmth and bringing it to life with details like the pearl earring gleaming n the girl's ear.
Towards the end of his brief career, Vermeer adopted a somewhat unusual viewpoint. In The Love Letter, the observer has the impression of being in the shadows of an antechamber where the servant's broom and slippers have been abandoned. The room beyond the heavy drape is bathed in light and depicted in rigorous perspective. The love letter creates an atmosphere of female complicity that overcomes the usual social barriers, as the lady and her servant exchange inquiring looks.
Vermeer The Art of Painting.
Strangely enough, we have no documentary evidence of Vermeer's physical appearance, other than this self-portrait from behind in the Allegory of Painting (The Art of Painting). Silence, concentration, and an almost metaphysical purity of image reign in a rarefied atmosphere, created by the perfect arrangement of each element in an ideal composition that alternates between colors and empty spaces. This magnificent work can be seen as a kind of spiritual testament. The painter has portrayed himself from behind, sitting at his easel, but at the same time, he shares the observer's viewpoint and has pulled the heavy drape to the left to allow us to see further into the interior of the studio. In the sharp clarity of the bright room, a young woman is posing in classical attire as an ancient muse. All is peace, beauty, and contemplation that becomes action.
From a composition standpoint, this painting repeats the typical arrangement of Vermeer's interiors: the light enters from a window on the left, a still figure occupies the center of the space, and splendid still life elements lie in apparent disorder on a table. The pulled-back drape is a device he frequently used in his later works, as did other painters of interiors, like Pieter de Hooch. The empty chair in the foreground holds back the curtain, but it could suggest the two people are expecting someone else.
The large map of Holland in the background, meticulously rendered, expressed the United Province's pride in their hard-won independence. Maps frequently adorned Dutch houses as a symbol of national identity.
It is thought that in The Procuress, the person on the left is Vermeer, but this is speculation, and no one knows for sure, so we used it as his photo at the top left of his biography.
After his death at the age of only 42, Johannes Vermeer was overlooked by all but the most discriminating art collectors and art historians for more than 200 years. His few oil paintings were attributed to other artists. In 1842, an art historian and critic, Joseph Thore, aka William Burger, discovered the landscape View of Delft. Vermeer painted landscapes very rarely, but this vista of his hometown is his absolute masterpiece. Proust was especially fond of this painting and it led to the general public's rediscovery of the artist. Typical of his poetic and stylistic choices, this is by no means a precise objective view. Only a few buildings correspond to the actual architecture of Delft, which is depicted from outside the wall and beyond the canals that surround the historic center. Instead, Vermeer blends reality and fantasy, affection and free-ranging memory. Thore was in ecstasy and devoted twenty years of his life to researching the artist's true identity and works that had before been attributed to other artists were identified as coming from his brush. Thanks to him, Vermeer is one of the most famous world artists today.
Art Movement: Dutch Golden Age.
Artists Influencing Johannes Vermeer: Carel Fabritius, Abraham Bloemaert.
Painters Johannes Vermeer Influenced: Gabriel Metsu.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.
Johannes Vermeer Hand-Painted Oil Painting Reproductions.
Johannes Vermeer Museum Art Replicas on Canvas.
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