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About Johannes Vermeer

The MilkmaidVermeer, Jan (1632 Delft - 1675 Delft), Dutch painter, who excelled in portraying interior scenes. Although Vermeer was one of the greatest of Dutch genre painters with Frans Hals and Rembrandt, and his work is unique in the history of art, very little is known about his life. Vermeer was born in Delft and was the son of a weaver in silk and satin, who later became an art dealer and inn-keeper. (and) Vermeer was probably a pupil of Fabritius. In 1653 he married Catharina Bolens and and after serving an apprenticeship, he was admitted to the guild of Saint Luke of Delft as a master painter. He worked slowly and therefore his output was small, and insufficient to keep a large family, although he achieved fairly high prices. He tried to supplement his income by acting as an art dealer, but this also failed. Although a few of his paintings are believed to have disappeared, documentation exists for only 35 of Vermeer's works. The small number of paintings is due to Vermeer's deliberate, methodical work habits and his comparatively short life. 

Only one of his 36 surviving paintings is dated ("The Procuress", Dresden, Gemäldegallerie, 1656). "Diana and her Companions" (The Hague, Mauritshuis) and "Christ in the House of Martha and Mary" (Edinburgh, National Gallery) probably date from about 1655, a period when he explored Italian art and came to terms with the Utrecht Caravaggists. These were followed by the genre scenes, conversation pieces, in which detail and gestures are still somewhat over-emphasized. The pictures with which Vermeer's name is now mostly associated were painting shortly before and after 1660, including "Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window", "The Milkmaid", "Woman The Artist's Studio [A1047]Holding a Balance" and "The Artist's Studio" or "Allegory of Painting". In these intimate scenes, light itself seems to have become the subject of the picture; a moment of stillness captured on canvas.

Vermeer was a master of composition and of representation of space. His arrangement of neutral, muted hues provides natural perspective in such work as Maidservant Pouring Milk (1660, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands). He painted primarily sunlit domestic interiors in which one or two figures are shown engaged in reading, writing, performing domestic tasks, or playing musical instruments. These objectively observed, precisely executed genre paintings of 17th-century Dutch life present an almost geometrical sense of order.

Vermeer stands apart from his contemporary genre painters through his superb draughtsman ship and skill in perspective, his colour harmonies, in which cool blue and brilliant yellow predominate, and his incomparable ability in setting enamel-like highlights which impart a glow to surfaces. In his late work his treatment of light lost some of its poetry, his drawing became less fluid, and the interiors less simple. On his death his pictures were auctioned off and he was forgotten, and it was not until towards the end of the 19th century that his true significance was recognized.