Johannes Vermeer, Painter of Delft, 1632-1675

Johannes Vermeer, Painter of Delft, 1632-1675

Johannes Vermeer, Painter of Delft, 1632-1675

Johannes Vermeer, Painter of Delft, 1632-1675

Excerpt

A foreword might be much more justly called an after-word. It is usually written when the author has put "Finis" to his last chapter and has read his manuscript through once more thoughtfully and quietly. Then for the first time he notices that he still has something to say to the reader, not about the subject of the work, but about "the book". That is what happened to me too. Now that the time has come to write the very last pages which are a justification of this work, my thoughts go back for a moment to the past. Especially to that morning, when I, on the threshold of life, visited the Rijksmuseum at Amsterdam and there "discovered" Johannes Vermeer. The image of the Master which rose up before me then excelling everything and everyone, still stands clearly before me. It has not changed in spite of many different trends which since then have stirred the world of Art and myself too, in spite of the changes of opinions and feelings in so many things and ways which everybody is subject to, and therefore I also. The only thing which has changed is our knowledge of his works, his methods, and his life. The desire for this knowledge is rooted in admiration. It is grounded in the indescribable aesthetic values which were revealed to me in Vermeer's creations. I am not going to give the reader a long story about the causes, events, and all sorts of more or less important circumstances and happenings which led to the writing of this book. These are themes, which, with variations and in other keys, are played in all men's lives. As I write I hear the melodies echoing in myself as if coming from a distance. How could it be otherwise? But now that I have completed my book and see it as a whole, I feel I ought to justify what many may call a daring deed, that of laying Vermeer's beautiful creations so ruthlessly on the operation-table as if they were subjects for the laboratory or operating- theatre. Is it justifiable to dissect the works of a Master like this? Would not a spiritual and artistic view be more suitable and more fruitful? In my writing have the heart and soul which so often--and certainly with an artist--speak much more loudly and clearly than a cool reasoning intelligence, been too much pushed aside? These and similar questions in other forms too will keep looming up again and again if we go into the dark labyrinth of man's soul. But perhaps they can be quenched or nullified if we consider the universal human lover's desire to know the object of his love as thoroughly as possible. But there is yet more. The richest language has not enough words when we try to reproduce our completely innermost and deepest feelings in their thousand shades and aspects. Every attempt to do this ends in similitudes and there is no similitude so perfect . . .

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