Johannes Vermeer is one of the most celebrated artists of all time. His paintings are considered among the finest examples of art history. Our Johannes Vermeer collection celebrates the master's well-known works and his fixation on the domestic interior of middle-class life his use of light and his iconic subject matter including, women engaged in the role of the housewife are world-renowned, with such masterpieces as The Girl with a Pearl Earring, Girl with a Red Hat, Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Woman Holding and the Milkmaid.
Johannes Vermeer was born in 1632 in the Delft, Netherlands. He wasn’t a traveller, and he lived and worked in his hometown all his life. his work eventually did travel around the world, however, long after he had died. There’s little we know about the life of Vermeer. He was married to a Catholic woman and together had eleven children. He was born a Protestant and in order to marry his wife, Catherine Bolnes, he converted to Catholicism. He became a master in the Delft painters guild in 1653, the year he was married.
While also working as a painter, Vermeer worked as an art dealer and valuer. However, thanks to the ongoing war between the Netherlands and France, he struggled to sell his own paintings and broker the work of other artists. He died deep in debt, leaving behind his wife and children. Along with Rembrandt and Frans Hals, Vermeer is ranked as one of the most celebrated artists to come out of the Dutch Golden Age.
During his lifetime, Johannes Vermeer wasn’t a nationally known painter like Rembrandt had been. He painted slowly and carefully, taking great care with his work. His clientele were residents of Delft and the Hague. He hardly sold art outside of these neighbourhoods. In total, Vermeer created thirty-four paintings known today. After he died, destitute, the world basically forgot about the Dutch artist, and it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that his name re-emerged. Two men, Gustav Friedrich and Theophile Thore-Burger published an essay and attributed sixty-six artworks to the Vermeer.
While Johannes Vermeer is celebrated as one of the best artists in the world, he didn’t receive such acclaim while he was still alive. This perhaps comes down to the fact that Vermeer only created forty-five paintings, and out of those only thirty-six are known today. Despite the small output of work (compared to his contemporaries), Vermeer was paid well and was paid steadily throughout his career, providing him with financial stability.
Vermeer’s subject matter was domestic interior scenes of the middle-class, and his depictions showed warm and inviting scenes. He was also obsessed with light. He used expensive pigments and worked slowly. His steady progress came to a halt near the end of his life, and Vermeer began to struggle to sell artworks thanks to the ongoing war between the Netherlands and France. A financial crash in 1672 forced Vermeer to sell his possessions to repay debts. The collapse of the market added financial pressures to Vermeer’s life and he died after a short illness in December 1675.
Johannes Vermeer’s most famous painting is Girl with a Pearl Earring. The painting isn’t a portrait but rather a study of a costume, also known as a ‘tronie’. The pictured girl is recognised for the large pearl hanging from her ear, which had been painted to look larger than normal. In the Girl with a Pearl Earring, the study here is a girl in an exotic, oriental turban. In the seventeenth century, women in the Netherlands didn’t wear turbans so this is truly a ‘tronie’. In the seventeenth century, pearls were a sign of status. In 1881, an influential cultural official recognised the badly damaged Girl with a Pearl Earring as a true Vermeer. Girl with a Pearl Earring is nicknamed the ‘Mona Lisa of the North’, and, in some cases, is more recognised than Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
In The Lacemaker, Vermeer depicts a woman in the middle of domestic duty. Deep in concentration, the woman is bent over with sewing materials in hand. The Lacemaker stands out in Vermeer’s repertoire as it is his smallest work and one of two paintings executed on wood panels.
Vermeer was a painter of everyday life and, as a result, his artworks act as sources of information about life during the seventeenth century. The painting is almost photographic, so fleeting is the moment that it looks so real. But the composition was carefully put together. The room isn’t dressed up but rather looks plain and poor. Researchers believe the milkmaid is making bread porridge, yum. Her action only adds to the photographic look.
Johannes Vermeer lived all his life in Delft, and when he married, he moved into his mother-in-law’s house. He loved his hometown, and it is evident in the painting The Little Street which depicts a street in Delft. So committed was he to the city of Delft that his genre paintings are reflective of the city, and he also was named the head of the painter’s guild in 1662.