Arts Everyday Living: Escaping Social Distancing Through Art—Why Do We Love Vermeer?





What is it about a Vermeer?  In this Art Circle, I’m featuring 9 of at least 34 paintings that are currently identified as his works (according to the highly recommend website Essential Vermeer).  We know so little about his life, including the identification of the often haunting models who grace his timeless interiors. Engaged usually in everyday activities that by the miracle of art are transformed into extraordinary moments enduring for an eternity.

Notice too each Vermeer is accompanied by a quote from: French bishop Francis de Sales (1567-1622), American poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), British author J.R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973), French priest John Vianney (1786-1859), American poet John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and American artist Robert Henri (1865-1929).


Johannes Vermeer, The Milkmaid, c. 1657-1661, oil on canvas, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands


Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit.  Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset. 

Saint Francis de Sales


The white of her cap stands out so clearly against the very different white of the wall and the white of the collar.  The subtle touches of blue in the wall, the pitcher, and the bowl really catch your eye as does the red of her skirt.

Kay Oshel

Such vivid colors and the effect of light and shadow with the window illuminating the scene.  And there’s the still life within the painting of the food on the table where the milk is being poured.  What is the little box behind the milkmaid used for? (It is generally identified as a foot warmer.)  The St. Francis quote is great!

Daena Kluegel


Johannes Vermeer, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, c. 1662-1665, oil on canvas, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands


A letter always seemed to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal  friends.

Emily Dickinson


This work has much of the same palette as The Milkmaid, but with such a softer effect.  It seems to me that she is more private and removed from the viewer than the milkmaid.  She is a lady of leisure as opposed to the working milkmaid.

Kay Oshel

This includes many shades of blue (also in the chairs and the rug).  I see that map again in this painting and it adds depth and interest.  The woman is in profile and appears to be very intently reading her letter.  LIGHT! The Emily Dickinson quote is perfect.

Daena Kluegel


Johannes Vermeer, The Little Street, c. 1657-1658, oil on canvas, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands


Time doesn’t seem to pass here: it just is.

J. R. R. Tolkien


In The Little Street, the woman in the alley, the two figures together, and the woman in the doorway look as if they are in three different vignettes.  Each is intent on what they are doing to the exclusion of anything else.

Kay Oshel

Four figures of various tasks pull the viewer in.  Love the details of the buildings and the SKY!  A great quote from Tolkien.

Daena Kluegel


Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1665-1666, oil on canvas, Maurithuis, The Hague, Netherlands


A pure soul is like a fine pearl…  

John Vianney


A longtime favorite of mine.  I love her direct gaze and slightly parted lips as if she’s just about to invite the viewer into her private world.  The light reflecting from the earring and the white of her eyes and her collar are such an accent to the blues and golds elsewhere in the painting.

Kay Oshel

These shadows delineate her face.  Is the girl one of the artist’s family?  She seems to be asking something of the artist/viewer.  Her eyes pull you into the painting.  Love those vibrant colors.

Daena Kluegel


Johannes Vermeer, Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, c. 1662-1665, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York


The windows of my soul I open wide to the sun.

John Greenleaf Whittier


In the this painting, I can’t get enough of the blue and the gold and the red in the tapestry on the table.

Kay Oshel

There’s that map again.  Lovely composition.  Light and shadows pervade.  She doesn’t engage with us. The window is very detailed as is her costume and that “rug” over the table. The patterns and details really feed the eye.

Daena Kluegel


Johannes Vermeer, A Lady Seated at a Virginal, c. 1670-1675, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London, UK


Without music, life would be a mistake.

Friedrich Nietzsche


A study in proportions–she is the focal point but is small compared to her surroundings.  The light is on the lady, especially on her lovely face.  So many details…the painting on the wall, the cello and bow, the drape and decorations on the virginal.

Daena Kluegel


Johannes Vermeer, Woman with a Pearl Necklace, c. 1662-1664, oil on canvas, Staatliche Museum, Gemaldegalerie, Berlin, Germany

Find ecstasy in life, the mere act of living is joy enough.

Emily Dickinson


This is another favorite of mine.  I love how the light from the open window and the gold drape contrast with the almost total darkness below.  The gold of her jacket and the brush  on the table seem to balance the window and the drape.  The darkness at the bottom of the picture is enlivened by the white accents on the lidded jar, the mysterious white behind the table leg (what is it?), and the gleaming studs in the chair seat and back.

Kay Oshel

These are such beautiful and vibrant colors…especially the yellow in her costume and the window drape.  The woman is in profile and gives us a better view of her with the necklace.  Again, the light is perfect.  Many details too.  Wow!  That Emily Dickinson quote is good advice for these covid times!

Daena Kluegel


Johannes Vermeer, The Art of Painting, c. 1662-1668, oil on canvas, Kunsthistorisches, Vienna, Austria


The object isn’t to make art, it is to be in that wonderful state that makes art inevitable.

Robert Henri


This is is a very busy painting but with perfect light and color on the scene.  I feel I am watching a scene from the doorway.  Look at the light!  Notice the details of the room.  I enjoy the artist being faced away from us but we CAN see the model and that he is beginning to paint her (the hat).  I wonder is she posing for a “music” scene or is she modeling an angel? (She is usually identified as Clio, the muse of history.)  I would love to know that story.  AND I love the Henri quotation.

Daena Kluegel