Javatpoint Logo
Javatpoint Logo

Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer, often known as Jan Vermeer, was a Dutch Baroque Period painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life (October 1632 - December 15, 1675). During his career, he was a modestly successful provincial genre painter who was well-known in Delft and The Hague. Nonetheless, he made few paintings and was clearly not affluent, leaving his wife and children in debt upon his death.

Vermeer worked slowly and carefully, and he frequently employed expensive paints. He is best known for his masterful manipulation and use of light in his work. "Almost of his paintings," Hans Koningsberger observed, "appear to be set in two little rooms in his Delft house; they show the same furniture and furnishings in varied arrangements and they frequently depict the same people, primarily ladies."

After his death, his little celebrity faded into obscurity. He was removed from future assessments of Dutch art for nearly two decades since he was barely referenced in Arnold Houbraken's critical sourcebook on 17th-century Dutch painting (Grand Theatre of Dutch Painters and Women Artists). Vermeer was rediscovered in the nineteenth century by Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Théophile Thoré-Bürger, who published an essay attributing 66 works to him, despite the fact that only 34 paintings are unanimously credited to him today. Vermeer's reputation has grown since then, and he is now regarded as one of the best painters of the Dutch Golden Age.

Vermeer, like other prominent Dutch Golden Age artists such as Frans Hals and Rembrandt, never travelled outside of the Netherlands. He was also an enthusiastic art collector and dealer, like Rembrandt. Until recently, nothing was known about Vermeer's life. He appears to have lived his entire life in Delft, devoted solely to his work. Until the nineteenth century, the only sources of information were a few registrations, official documents, and comments from other artists; thus, Thoré-Bürger dubbed him "The Sphinx of Delft." In his book Artists and Artisans in Delft: A Socio-Economic Study of the Seventeenth Century, John Michael Montias provided information about the family from the city archives of Delft (1982).


Johannes Reijniersz Vermeer married a Catholic woman, Catharina Bolenes, in April 1653. (Bolnes). The blessing was held in the peaceful surrounding village of Schipluiden. Maria Thins, Vermeer's new mother-in-law, was initially opposed to the marriage since she was substantially wealthier than he was, and it was likely she who insisted on Vermeer converting to Catholicism before the wedding on 5 April. The fact that Vermeer's father was deeply in debt did not assist matters in the marriage negotiations. Maria dropped her oppositions after Leonaert Bramer, a Catholic himself, put in a good word for Vermeer. Vermeer's conversion appears to have been undertaken with conviction, according to art expert Walter Liedtke.

Between 1670 to 1672, he painted The Allegory of Faith, which focused on symbolic religious applications such as the Eucharist rather than the artist's usual naturalistic themes. According to Walter Liedtke in Dutch Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was created for a knowledgeable and devoted Catholic patron, maybe for his schuilkerk, or "hidden church." The pair eventually moved in with Catharina's mother, who lived in a pretty large house near Oude Langendijk, next to a hidden Jesuit church.

Vermeer spent the rest of his life at this house, painting in the front room on the second level. His wife bore him 15 children, four of whom were buried before being christened but were documented as "children of Johan Vermeer." Wills signed by relatives reveal the names of 10 of Vermeer's children: Maertge, Elisabeth, Cornelia, Aleydis, Beatrix, Johannes, Gertruyd, Franciscus, Catharina, and Ignatius. Several of these names have religious connotations, and the youngest (Ignatius) was most likely named after the founder of the Jesuit order.


It is unknown where or with whom Vermeer trained as a painter. Based on a contentious interpretation of a book published in 1668 by printer Arnold Bon, some speculate that Carel Fabritius was his teacher. Art historians have discovered no hard evidence to back this up. Local authority Leonaert Bramer acted as a buddy, but their painting styles are quite different. According to Liedtke, Vermeer taught himself using information obtained from one of his father's connections. Some experts believe Vermeer received his training from the Catholic painter Abraham Bloemaert. Vermeer's technique is similar to that of some of the Utrecht Caravaggists, whose works are reproduced in the backgrounds of some of his compositions as paintings-within-paintings.

Vermeer joined the Guild of Saint Luke, a trade group for painters, on December 29, 1653. According to the guild's records, Vermeer did not pay the regular entry fee. It was a year of epidemic, conflict, and economic disaster, and Vermeer was not alone in facing financial difficulties. The city was devastated by the Delft Thunderclap in 1654, which destroyed a substantial portion of the city. He may have found a sponsor in local art collector Pieter van Ruijven, who granted him money around 1657. Vermeer appears to have drawn influence from the work of the Leiden fijnschilders. Vermeer was reacting to the market of Gerard Dou's paintings, which sold for extravagant rates. Dou may have had an impact on Pieter de Hooch and Gabriel Metsu as well. Vermeer likewise charged above-average prices for his paintings, the majority of which were purchased by an undisclosed collector.

The light from the left and the marble floor clearly show Johannes Vermeer's influence on Metsu. Vermeer was most likely competing with Nicolaes Maes, who created genre paintings in a similar style. Vermeer was elected guild leader in 1662 and re-elected in 1663, 1670, and 1671, demonstrating that he (like Bramer) was regarded as an established artisan among his colleagues. Vermeer worked slowly, most likely completing three paintings per year on commission. Balthasar de Monconys came to examine his work in 1663, but Vermeer had no results to show him. The diplomat and two French clerics with him were sent to Hendrick van Buyten, a baker with a pair of his paintings as collateral.

Gerrit van Uylenburgh organised an auction of Gerrit Reynst's collection in 1671, offering 13 paintings and sculptures to Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg. On the recommendation of Hendrick Fromantiou, Frederick accused them of being forgeries and returned 12 of them. Van Uylenburg then organised a counter-assessment, with the help of 35 artists, including Jan Lievens, Melchior de Hondecoeter, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, and Johannes Vermeer.

His Works

Johannes Vermeer

Like most painters of his day, Vermeer may have begun his paintings tonally, using either monochrome shades of grey ("grisaille") or a limited palette of browns and greys ("dead coloring"), over which he would layer more intense colors (reds, yellows, and blues) in the form of translucent glazes. Vermeer is not known to have made any drawings, and his paintings reveal little about his working methods.

There was no other 17th-century artist who lavishly used the exorbitantly expensive colour lapis lazuli (natural ultramarine) so early in his career. Vermeer utilised this in more than simply natural materials; the earth colours umber and ochre should be regarded as warm light within a painting's brilliantly lighted interior, which reflects its numerous colours onto the wall. In this way, he built a universe that was more flawless than any he had seen before. Vermeer's grasp of Leonardo's observations that the surface of everything partakes of the color of the neighboring object most likely inspired this working style. This means that no thing is ever seen in its actual color.

The Girl with the Wine Glass makes a comparable but even more stunning, yet effective, use of natural ultramarine. The shadows of the red satin dress are underpainted in natural ultramarine, and the red lake and vermilion mixture poured over it has a somewhat purple, calm, and substantial effect that is very striking. Even after his alleged financial breakdown following the rampjaar (year of disaster) in 1672, Vermeer continued to use natural ultramarine liberally, as in Lady Seated at a Virginal. This could imply that Vermeer received materials from a collector, which would support John Michael Montias' theory that Pieter van Ruijven was Vermeer's sponsor.

With the exception of two cityscapes and two allegories, Vermeer's works are mostly genre pieces and portraits. His subjects represent a cross-section of seventeenth-century Dutch society, from a lowly milkmaid at labour to the richness and grandeur of affluent notables and merchantmen in their spacious homes. Aside from these topics, his work contains religious, lyrical, musical, and scientific reflections.

Vermeer's choice of colours was one component of his painstaking painting process. He is well known for using ultramarine (The Milkmaid), as well as lead-tin-yellow (A Lady Writing a Letter), madder lake (Christ in the House of Martha and Mary), and vermilion. He also used ochres, bone black, and azurite in his work. Later pigment analysis disproved his assertion that he used Indian yellow in Woman Holding a Balance.

Only around 20 colours have been identified in Vermeer's work. Vermeer frequently used seven of these 20 pigments: lead white, yellow ochre, vermilion, madder lake, green earth, raw umber, and ivory or bone black. Vermeer created less than 50 paintings, 34 of which have survived. The Procuress (1656; Gemäldegalerie, Dresden); The Astronomer (1668; Musée du Louvre, Paris); and The Geographer (1669; Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt) were the only Vermeer paintings that the artist dated.

A couple of his paintings exhibit a hardening of manner and are regarded to be his late works. The Allegory of Faith (c. 1670; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) and The Love Letter both date from this period (c. 1670; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). Vermeer's work and reputation have been highlighted in both literature and movies. Tracy Chevalier's novel Girl with a Pearl Earring (1999), as well as the 2003 film of the same name, give a fictitious narrative of Vermeer's production of the renowned painting and his relationship with the similarly fictitious model. The great painter inspires many artists; for example, Aimee Twigger, a food photographer, relies on Vermeer's chiaroscuro for her gustatory excursions through cuisine.

Next TopicJohn Adams

Youtube For Videos Join Our Youtube Channel: Join Now


Help Others, Please Share

facebook twitter pinterest

Learn Latest Tutorials


Trending Technologies

B.Tech / MCA