Sam Jackson

An Intro to Vermeer

a real dutch master

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch painter that lived in the mid-17th century and is commonly considered one of the greatest artists of his time.

He's by far and away most famous for Girl with the Pearl Earring:

If "girl with the pearl erring" is ringing a bell but you don't recognize the painting, you're probably thinking of the movie adaptation featuring a teenage Scarlett Johansson. That a painting inspired a novel-made-movie says something about how famous this thing is.

And the Girl with the Pearl Earring is a good place to start with Vermeer as it showcases two of his works' most consistent features:
  • The striking use of blue pigment. At the time he was painting, the two blues Vermeer used most, ultramarine and lapis lazuli, were extremely expensive, yet he incorporated huge amounts of it into his work.
  • It depicts a female subject. Who knows why, but nearly all of Vermeer's paintings feature a young woman.

While not as well known, a piece perhaps even more representative of Vermeer's work is The Love Letter:

Here we see a few more classic Vermeer-isms:
  • The Love Letter is a genre painting, or a scene of everyday life. Many of Vermeer's paintings depict common scenes of maids at work, playing instruments, etc.
  • There is a blue and white tiled floor (just another excuse to work in that lapis lazuli!) that features prominently in a number of Vermeer's works.
  • The subject is indoors, and the scene appears to have been chanced upon by an onlooker in another room. The voyeurism and framing via interior decor is classic Johannes.
Speaking of Vermeer being Vermeer, one more piece that is worth checking out for it's "Vermeerity" is The Art of Painting:

Like The Love Letter, The Art of Painting is full of the usual tropes: tile, blue, indoor, genre, instruments, etc... Except that it is incepted one level and actually depicts the artist painting one of his subjects. It has been speculated that Vermeer considered this his greatest work, and he never sold it.

Finally, lest you think that Vermeer is a one-trick pony, it's worth noting that he also did a couple landscape paintings, including View of Delft:

While it's very good, I'm guessing the price tag was pretty hefty given all the blue. It's a shame considering.

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