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Johannes Vermeer

October 31, 1632 - December 15, 1675


Johannes Vermeer is now one of the most well-known names of all Dutch painting, but was relatively unknown outside local circles in the seventeenth century. He lived in Delft in the Netherlands, where his father worked as a weaver, innkeeper, and art dealer. Vermeer’s exposure to his father’s art collection from a young age allowed him the ability to synthesize techniques and styles from a broad scope of artistic periods. Although there is little evidence of him having a teacher or pupils, Vermeer was an active participant in the artist community in his region. He was a member of the painters’ guild of Delft, and he had friendly and professional correspondences with other artists such as Pieter de Hooch and Frans van Mieris. Vermeer only produced about 45 paintings, an incredibly small number compared to other contemporary Dutch artists who painted hundreds of pictures for a thriving art market. His paintings sold for large sums with which he could support his family of 11 children, but the economy of the Netherlands took a serious downturn in the early 1670s, and his art-dealing business began to fail. A year after his death in 1675, his wife filed for bankruptcy. Vermeer’s early style is reminiscent of artists such as Anthony van Dyck, Hendrick ter Brugghen, and Caravaggio. His odd blend of styles demonstrates his familiarity with older works and movements as he built upon them to form his own distinctive painting approach. Vermeer also drew inspiration from the world around him and often painted domestic subjects in balanced compositions with naturalistic details. He paid careful attention to the effects of light and changes in focus and recessions in space. This fascination with naturalism in Vermeer’s paintings has long been attributed to his interest in the camera obscura, but current scholars believe that the connection has been greatly exaggerated. Vermeer is best known for his intimate domestic scenes of women at work in the home. The soft light and careful attention to color create a contained world in which the viewer feels a part. His most famous works include “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and “Young Woman with a Water Pitcher”.

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