The Girl with a Pearl Earring
Mauritshuis Art Museum Hague
Johannes Vermeer

An artist like Vermeer would not sit in his studio and imagine the scenes to be painted. Instead, he would prefer to sit in a corner where he can see how men and women behave usually in their daily life.

Look at this painting The Girl With a Pearl Earring. It was sold for USD 10.62 million in the year 2014, at Christie's. 

No more details about Vermeer's personal life is available; except, he was born in the year 1632; He was baptised as Johannes Vermeer, and he was buried as Johannes Vermeer (1632 - 1675). His paintings are sold in millions today, but he died in debt. 

It is difficult to say under whose guidance Vermeer learned painting. It is believed that he had taken training under a Catholic painter named Abraham Mloemaert. One more artistic fact: the model in the painting The Girl with a Pearl Earring, was Vermeers' daughter. Yes, he had made his wife and kitchen maid, too, sitting as models for his paintings. 

Literary Fact About the Painting: One of the renowned novelists, Tracy Chevalier, had published a novel titled The Girl With A Pearl Earring. The said novel has been adapted for a film. The film is a successful venture.

There is a historic fact about the painting, The Girl with a Pearl Earring. One of the renowned novelists, Tracy Chevalier had published a novel that is titled The Girl with a Pearl Earring. The said novel has been adapted for a film. The film was a successful venture.

About the women Vermeer depicted in his paintings, we can observe that there was an element of mystery in every painting. His paintings are the accumulation of the suggestions about the peasant's life, though not the complete stories told in detail. His paintings are known for two things: one, his choice of subjects, and two, the infusion of light in the frames.

The main characteristic of Vermeer's paintings were their preciseness. It is believed that Vermeer used a camera obscura for getting the accurate positioning of the characters he painted. It made his paintings so composed. The use of falling light captures our attention. That was how the master painter used to execute his work. 

A young woman seated at the virginals 
Oil on canvas Johannes Vermeer

One more important aspect of his paintings: Vermeer painted with thin colours, no more dots, no more thickness of paint. Vermeer's paintings speak the language of cool observation, involving the viewer in an experience of increasing relationships and visual discoveries, which are painted in the acts of daily life.  

Look at the painting A young woman seated at the virginals    The all-time record of the sale price of paintings done by Vermeer was created when this painting was sold for $40 Million at Sotheby. It was in the year 2004. If the present price level is taken into consideration, the price of this painting A young woman seated at the virginals would amount to much more than $40 million. 

There is no other seventeenth-century artist who had in his early career used the expensive pigment lapis lazuli, or natural ultramarine. However, no drawings have been positively attributed to Vermeer, nor his paintings offer any clues to preparatory methods. He must be a spontaneous artist, working on the spot. He painted mostly domestic interior scenes, with the exception of some cityscapes

Saint Praxedis
Attributed to Johannes Vermeer

Look at this painting Saint Praxedis This painting is attributed to Vermeer after a long debate. This painting was sold for $10.7 Million at Christie's auction. It was in the year 2014. If the present price level is taken into consideration, the price of this painting would amount much more. Vermeer had painted very few paintings showing a religious subject. This is one of them.

Unlike modern time, the number of paints available was quite less in the 17th century. His colours were of different characteristics in regards to permanence, workability, and drying time. Vermeer used white, red madder, green earth, raw umber and ivory black, yellow ochre and vermilion. 

While executing the portrait-like paintings, Vermeer had painted those moments of life wherein one feels alone and immersed in one’s thoughts. Depiction of thoughts, even if involved in domestic work, was his trademark in genre paintings.

VERMEER: Using Ultramarine and Lapis Lazuli

Johannes Vermeer  
The  Milk Maid (1658-60)
Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

Genre painters choose the ordinary life of common men as the subject. This style of paintings is also called genre scenes or genre views. These paintings are pictorial representations in any of various media that represent scenes or events from everyday life, such as markets, domestic settings, interiors, parties, inn scenes, and street scenes. 

The artists are free to use their imaginations, as such representations may be realistic, imagined, or romanticized. 

Look at the painting The  Milk MaidThe dark blue apron where Vermeer had applied the expensive ultramarine. The bread, the basket and the bowl are so vibrant that they attract the viewers' immediate attention. However, the Focal point of the painting and the maid is the milk being poured in. By painting this, the artist has turned the most ordinary act of daily life into a poetic statement. The bread, the basket and the bowl are so vibrant that they seem to compete to steal the viewers’ attention.

Johannes Vermeer,
Young Woman Sleeping
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

The Painter of Ordinary Moments: The painting of those people who did domestic acts, like milkmaid’s work or carpentry or masonry, was never a subject for the painters who lived in the west. Subjects chosen by Vermeer were the marked departure from the main road followed by the other court-bound and church-going painters. Before him, most of the paintings had a religious feel or pretext at least.

Vermeer’s paintings depicting common people doing their day to day works were without religious pretext. Here in this painting Young Woman Sleeping, a woman is shown asleep. From her get up, we can assume that she should be a domestic servant. She might be doing hard work, and she might have stolen some moment of rest between her two works. 

In Vermeer's paintings, we cannot miss noticing the beauty of the colours he handled. He mainly used white, red madder, green earth, raw umber and ivory black, yellow ochre and vermilion. This painting, Girl Asleep, is the earliest work by Vermeer depicting his favoured choice of the subject of one or two figures in a domestic interior.

The overall theme of the painting goes directly back to Rembrandt. The handling of light, as well as deep colouring and application of heavy paste in execution, resembles the technique of some of Rembrandt's paintings.  

Johannes Vermeer
Lady Maidservant Holding a Letter
Frick Collection, New York City

The Painter of Ladies with Letters: Vermeer had painted many paintings taking the letter in the centre of depiction. He made the theme around the letter a subject of classical perfection, making the subject so memorable. Here the beauty of a woman is tagged with the reading of a letter, also making the subject very feminine. 

In the painting Lady Maidservant Holding a Letter, the woman standing in an isolated corner and reading refers to the contents of the letter, too—undoubtedly the message from a beloved one. The placement of the lady near a window and another arrangement of furniture speak about the then living of the upper class of Vermeer’s period, the 18th century. 

Vermeer had painted those flashes of life wherein a person feels alone, absorbed in thoughts. Vermeer was a prolific artist, painting moments of life when one feels lonely and engaged in one’s solicitudes. 'Letter' was his favourite subject. Perhaps the characters he painted liked reading the letters. He did several paintings keeping the letter in the centre of the canvas.     

Johannes Vermeer
Woman Reading a Letter
Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

In this painting Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (Oil on canvas, size 46.5 x 39 cm), a woman is engaged in reading a letter. The subject is very feminine, and the woman standing in the interior of the home refers to the contents of the letter, too. It should undoubtedly be a message from her beloved. 

Look at the placement of the lady near a window. The arrangement of furniture speaks about the lifestyle and living of the upper class of Vermeer’s period: the 18th-century. About the colours, ultramarine and yellow have created a magical effect.  

About this painting, the critics say that "Nothing has ever been painted that is more noble and refined than this blue young lady". But the 'blue' has suffered due to the flowing of the water in the river of time. However, it is said that the varnish is removed and the painted areas have gone through a renovating touch. It is believed that out of the total work of Vermeer, only 36 paintings are surviving. This painting Woman Reading a Letter is oil on canvas. Presently it is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York.

Johannes Vermeer 
Girl Reading a Letter
Old Masters Gallery,
Dresden, Germany

Here in The Girl Reading a Letter, the theme is a known one, the letter, but Vermeer had added exotic articles around the reading woman. The Turkish carpet, a precious one, painted here is seen in many paintings done by genre painters during the period. 

Look at the other things in the surroundings. The carpets and curtains. Such carpets were necessary to protect the residents from severe Dutch winter. The presence of the curtain gives us the feeling that it was put there for protecting the painting itself, as it was customary to guard painting in the Dutch house of the time. Look at the handling of light, as well as the deep colouring. All the articles speak about how masterly the painting was executed. One strange fact about this painting: Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window was in possession of the Soviet Union for a short period after the Second World War.  

Tailpiece:       It is strange to know that most of Vermeer's work was done by sitting at home. He had two rooms; these two rooms had windows; these windows allowed the sunlight to fall on the floor of the house. That light played a great role. No studio, no sketches, no under-drawing, and no apprentices: that was how the great artist Vermeer worked.

[All the paintings are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons]


No comments:

Post a Comment


Search results