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Johannes Vermeer... The Master Of Color

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Johannes Vermeer (October 1632 – 15 December 1675) was a Dutch Baroque Period painter, The Baroque is a style of architecture, music, dance, painting, sculpture, poetry, and other arts that flourished at the start of the 17th century in Rome, then spread rapidly to France, northern Italy, Spain, and Portugal, then to Austria, southern Germany, and Poland.

Vermeer... Baroque Period painter

The Baroque followed Renaissance art and Mannerism and preceded the Rococo and Neoclassical styles. In the 16th century, the Medieval Latin word "baroco" was used to characterize anything that seemed absurdly complex.

The complexity of the Baroque style was encouraged by the Catholic Church as a means to counter the simplicity of Protestant architecture, art, and music. To achieve the Catholic Church's sense of awe The Baroque style used contrast, movement, exuberant detail, deep color, and grandeur.

Though Johannes Vermeer was baptized within the Reformed Protestantism Church on 31 October 1632, Vermeer converted to Catholicism before the marriage on 5 April 1653. Most of Vermeer's paintings embody domestic interior scenes of middle-class life.

In 1631, Vermeer's father Reijnier began dealing in paintings, when Reijnier died in October 1652, Vermeer took over the operation of the family's art business.

Vermeer produced relatively few paintings and evidently was not wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death. On 29 December 1653, Vermeer became a member of the Guild of Saint Luke.

Vermeer was elected head of the Guild...

Guild membership was required for an artist to take on apprentices, sell paintings to the public, or have a shop... The guild's records make clear that Vermeer did not pay the usual admission fee. It was a year of plague, war, and economic crisis; Vermeer was not alone in experiencing difficult financial circumstances.

In 1662, Vermeer was elected head of the guild and was reelected in 1663, 1670, and 1671. During his lifetime, Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter.

Arnold Houbraken (28 March 1660 – 14 October 1719) a biographer of Dutch Golden Age painters barely mentioned Vermeer's paintings in his sourcebook (Grand Theatre of Dutch Painters and Women Artists). Vermeer was thus omitted from subsequent surveys of Dutch art for nearly two centuries.

In the 19th century, Vermeer was rediscovered by the German art historian Gustav Friedrich Waagen (11 February 1794 – 15 July 1868) and the French art critic Étienne-Joseph-Théophile Thoré (better known as Théophile Thoré-Bürger) (23 June 1807 – 30 April 1869) who published an essay attributing 66 pictures to him, since that time, Vermeer acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age.

Similar to the major Dutch Golden Age artist Rembrandt, Vermeer never went abroad. Also, like Rembrandt, Vermeer was an art collector and dealer. On 15 December 1675, Vermeer died after a short illness aged 43.

The Milkmaid (c. 1658), Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Vermeer
The Milkmaid (c. 1658), Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Vermeer

The Milkmaid by Vermeer

Ranging from the portrayal of a simple milkmaid at work to the luxury and splendor of rich notables and merchantmen in their roomy houses. Besides these subjects, religious, poetical, musical, and scientific comments can also be found in Vermeer's work.

Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, Vermeer probably was producing three paintings a year on order. And frequently used very expensive pigments.

Vermeer seems to have been devoted exclusively to his art, living out his life in the city of Delft, the French art critic Thoré-Bürger named him "The Sphinx of Delft".

Because of Vermeer's photorealistic attention to detail, never had any pupils, and unfortunately, it is unclear where and with whom Vermeer apprenticed as a painter, there are no stated details about his artistic procedures.

Vermeer's painting techniques have long been a source of debate. Rumors have been around that Vermeer (among other Renaissance and Baroque artists) used optics to achieve precise positioning in their compositions.

A close-up at Vermeer's paintings.

A close-up at Vermeer's paintings, he may have first executed his paintings starting with monochrome shades of grey ("grisaille") or a limited palette of browns and greys ("dead coloring"), The successive layers which he would apply were saturated colors (reds, yellows, and blues) in the form of transparent glazes.

The utilization of exorbitantly expensive pigments like ultramarine (derived from natural lapis lazuli) was not a common practice among 17th-century artists. The Milkmaid painting is an example of Vermeer's frequent use of the very expensive ultramarine pigment.

Vermeer palette mainly was about 20 pigments. Of these, seven principal pigments that Vermeer commonly employed are lead white, yellow ochre, vermilion, madder lake, green earth, raw umber, and ivory or bone black.

After Vermeer's death, in his studio, there were two chairs, two painter's easels, three palettes, 10 canvases, a desk, an oak pull table, and a small wooden cupboard with drawers. with such simple tools and capabilities, Vermeer was able to document and immortalize a part of humanity's history.

For those asking about the Dutch civilization in the late 17th century, although only 34 paintings are universally attributed to him today, please have a close look at Vermeer's paintings.

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