Happy New Year! How would you like to start 2024 in a new, creative way?
Every Wednesday and Saturday, we will be posting an installment of our book, Through an Artist’s Eyes: Learning to Live Creatively offering you a pathway to art and the vision of the artist. Enabling you to develop your own inner creativity and apply it to the personal cycle of everyday living!
II. The Journey to Art
The Art of Contemplation, Part 2
Artistic Companion, Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675)
A magician of artists, Johannes or Jan Vermeer created perfect interiors with the purest of light. A mere thirty-four or thirty-five paintings are known to exist, making each painting as precious as the rarest jewel.
Vermeer is one of the mystery figures of art, for only the basic facts of his biography are known. He was born in 1632 in Delft, a prosperous city of seventeenth century Netherlands, and he died there in 1675. We know the names of his closest family members—his parents, wife, and mother-in-law; and the artist’s guild to which he belonged. However, his artistic education is a blank and no records exist of who commissioned his priceless works of art. It is thought that his interiors were set in what seems the pristine environment of his mother-in-law’s house where he lived. Yet the identity of his models, mainly women, has never been determined. They were probably his wife and daughters, perhaps a servant or two, but this is only speculation. Ironically, the artist of today’s most treasured paintings died in debt.
What is a Vermeer?
At first glance, an almost photographic realism pervades each room. Light moves with transparent energy, usually through a side window into the center of domestic space. The focus is often a woman engaged in daily activities such as reading or writing a letter, drinking wine or playing an instrument. The mood and atmosphere is quiet, verging almost on eternal silence, as if all the characters and their surroundings were transfixed, frozen in time. Each detail is exquisitely rendered, from the earthiest of jugs, to the plushest of carpets, to the most priceless of pearls. Colors and textures tantalize the viewer’s eye with their richness, waiting to be touched.
The Vermeer Gallery
Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, c. 1662, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
Have you ever been in the perfect room? An interior of clarity is illuminated with the morning light that enters at the mere opening of a latch—an ordinary gesture of a woman centuries ago, yet so profound she seems to pause in meditation, contemplating her act. The painting shows that moment of transformation, when color emerges in tones warm or cool, brilliant or subdued, with variations of red, yellow, and blue. Textures and surfaces, too, are soft, hard, transparent, or metallic, painted to be touched. Vermeer’s brush has expertly defined a display of objects, from the opulence of the oriental table cloth to the glistening pitcher, the rumpled drapery, to the uneven plane of the wall. Everything, whether splendid or mundane, is worthy of an artist’s eye.
Vermeer did have his favorite velvet chair, map of the Netherlands, ermine jacket, and harpsichord, of which he never seemed to tire. He reintroduced them into scenes of music lessons, romantic encounters, and the art of letter writing, year after year, as if attempting to discover the essence of their reality.
Copyright 2010: Joan Hart, Museum One, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced in any form or by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented including photocopying, recording and information storage and retrieval without permission from the publisher.