Johannes Vermeer

Vermeer, Jan

Jan Vermeer (vərmēr´, Dutch yän vərmār´, yōhän´əs), 1632–75, Dutch genre and landscape painter. He was born in Delft, where he spent his entire life. He was also known as Vermeer of Delft and as Jan or Johannes van der Meer. Carel Fabritius is presumed to have influenced him greatly. In 1653 he was admitted to the painters' guild, of which he was twice made dean. He enjoyed only slight recognition during his short life, and his work was forgotten or confused with that of others during the following century. Today he is ranked among the greatest Dutch masters and considered one of the foremost of all colorists. His most frequent subjects were intimate interiors, often with the solitary figure of a woman. Although his paintings are modest in theme, they exhibit a profound serenity and a splendor of execution that are unsurpassed. No painter has depicted more exquisitely luminous blues and yellows, pearly highlights, and the subtle gradations of reflected light, all perfectly integrated within strictly ordered compositions.

Vermeer apparently produced only one or two pictures a year during his period of greatest activity. His career is a mystery to art historians because, although his work was of the finest quality, his output was too small to have been the sole support of his family of 11 children. Only about 35 paintings can be attributed to him with any certainty. Among them are The Milkmaid and The Letter (Rijksmus.); The Procuress (Dresden); The Art of Painting (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna); View of Delft (The Hague); Soldier and Laughing Girl (Frick Coll., New York City); Girl Asleep and Young Woman with a Water Jug (Metropolitan Mus.); Woman Weighing Gold and Young Girl with a Flute (National Gall. of Art, Washington, D.C.); and The Concert (Gardner Mus., Boston). Forgeries of Vermeer's work have been frequent, Hans van Meegeren's being the most successful (see forgery, in art).

See biographies by F. W. Thienen (1949), A. Vries et al. (1988), and A. Bailey (2001); studies by P. L. Hale (repr. 1937), P. Descargues (tr. 1966), L. Goldschieder (rev. ed. 1967), L. Gowing (new ed. 1970), M. Pops (1984), J. M. Montias (1989), and A. K. Wheelock, Jr. (1995); catalog of exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., ed. by A. K. Wheelock, Jr. (1996). See also P. B. Coreman's study of Van Meegeren's forgeries (tr. 1949).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Giants of Delft: Johannes Vermeer and the Natural Philosophers : The Parallel Search for Knowledge during the Age of Discovery
Robert D. Huerta.
Bucknell University Press, 2003
Johannes Vermeer, Painter of Delft, 1632-1675
P. T. A. Swillens.
Spectrum, 1950
Dutch Painting in the Seventeenth Century
Madlyn Millner Kahr.
Icon Editions, 1993 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "Vermeer and the Delft School"
The Paintings of Jan Vermeer
Thomas Godkin.
Oxford University Press, 1940
The Master of Delft
Kushner, Aleksandr.
The Antioch Review, Vol. 59, No. 1, Winter 2001
Vermeer
Phillip L. Hale; Frederick W. Coburn; Ralph T. Hale.
Hale, Cushman & Flint, 1937
FREE! Estimates in Art
Frank Jewett Mather Jr.
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VI "Vermeer of Delft"
FREE! Ivory, Apes, and Peacocks: Joseph Conrad, Walt Whitman, Jules Laforgue, Dostoievsky and Tolstoy, Schoenberg, Wedekind, Moussorgsky, Cézanne, Vermeer, Matisse, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Italian Futurists, Various Latter-Day Poets, Painters, Composers, and Dramatists
James Huneker.
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1915
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VII "The Magic Vermeer"
Looking at Pictures
Kenneth Clark.
Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1960
Librarian’s tip: "Vermeer of Delft: A Painter in His Studio" begins on p. 101
The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the World's Greatest Works of Art
Hector Feliciano.
Basic Books, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Vermeer's Astonomer, or Hitler's Blind Spot"
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