The life of Johannes Vermeer
Johannes Vermeer was born in 1632 in Delft, where he would live and work his entire life. It’s unclear who taught Vermeer how to paint. We do know that he had many friends who were painters, but none of their styles came close to his.
Though Vermeer was an art dealer, just like his father, he always thought of himself more as a painter. He only worked on commission and produced no more than two or three works a year. It was just enough to support his wife and eleven children. He died suddenly in 1675.
The work of Johannes Vermeer
Johannes Vermeer made only 45 paintings in his life of which 35 still exist today. This probably makes Vermeer the most famous painter with such a small oeuvre in art history.
Vermeer’s work was highly underestimated during his life. After the French critic Théophile Thoré-Bürger wrote a monograph about Vermeer in 1866, his work suddenly gained appreciation. There was so little known about Vermeer at that time, that Bürger decided to call him ‘the Sphinx of Delft’. Nowadays the work of Johannes Vermeer is priceless. The painting ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ is also known as the Mona Lisa of the North and even inspired Hollywood moviemakers.
Typical of Vermeer’s work is the use of the colors blue and yellow. He is also known as the master of Dutch light. Supposedly, after the reclamation of land the color of the Dutch skies changed because the swamps and lakes no longer existed and light was no longer reflected up to the sky. The mythical Dutch light can only be seen in old paintings.
Where to find Johannes Vermeer
A visit to the Vermeer Centre Delft is the best way to learn more about Vermeer, his mentor and the stories behind his work. His most famous painting the ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’ is on display at the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam owns several works, including the famous ‘Milkmaid’.