Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer was one of the greatest Dutch artists though his talent was relatively unknown during his lifetime. There is little known about this artist in his early years, but he was born in 1632 in the Netherlands. His father was a silk weaver until 1631 when he purchased an inn and became an art dealer. With this connection to the art world as well as an implied apprenticeship for six years at the age of 15, Vermeer launched his career as an artist. In 1653, he joined the painters’ guild of Saint Luke which required a six year apprenticeship. That same year, Vermeer married Catharina Bolnes, a wealthy Catholic divorcée. He converted to Catholicism and moved into her house in Delft where he and his family remained throughout his life. During his short art career, his paintings demanded a high cost, so he was able to support his wife and eleven children.

In the late 1650’s Vermeer dabbled in the pointillism style and experimented in painting in the other styles of the artists in the seventeenth century. His mature style defined contemporary genre paintings by closely studying subtleties of appearance. Some of his most popular pieces consisted of domestic scenes of lower-class women and also scenes of single women in a corner of a room. These paintings focused on the play of light and elicited a notion of intimacy and sympathetic feelings for the viewer. His application of paint showed precision and utmost care in the application of the paint. In 1661, Vermeer painted with an emphasis on view obscurity and attempted three-dimensional views. As the years wore on, the Dutch economy took a downward spiral in the 1670’s, making him quickly destitute. He began to rely heavily on his mother-in-law for financial support. Without the means to support his family and with other stressors in his life, Johannes Vermeer passed away quickly in 1675 at the age of 43. Though he only produced a small amount of paintings, possibly around 45, he is still considered one of the most admired Dutch artists, measuring alongside of the artists Rembrandt (1606–1669) and Frans Hals (ca. 1582-1666).