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Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer (1632 - December 15, 1675) was a Dutch painter. Vermeer is also known as Vermeer of Delft or Johannes van der Meer.

Vermeer was born in Delft and stayed there all his life. He was buried in the Old Church (Oude Kerk) in Delft.

Vermeer is after Rembrandt the second most famous Dutch painter of the 17th century (a period which is better known as the Dutch Golden Age for its astonishing cultural and artistic achievements). His paintings are admired for their transparent colours, well though-out composition and brilliant use of light.

Little is known about the life of Vermeer. He married Catharina Bolenes in 1653. In that same year he joined the Sint Lucas painters guild. Later, in 1662 and 1669, he was chosen to preside over the guild. Vermeer did earn a meagre income as an art dealer rather than through selling his paintings. Sometimes he even had to pay his debts to local food stores with a painting. Vermeer died very poor. His widow had to trade all paintings still in her possesion to the city council in return for a small allowance (one source even says this was only one painting, also Vermeer's last work named Clio).

After his death Vermeer was soon forgotten. His paintings were sometimes sold bearing the name of another painter to raise their value. Only very recently has Vermeer been recognised as one of the greats: in 1866 art historian Théophile Thoré (pseudonym of W. Bürger) made a statement to this effect, attributing 76 paintings to Vermeer, a number that was soon lowered by others. At the beginning of the twentieth century rumours ran rampant that there were yet undiscovered Vermeer paintings.

Very few paintings of Vermeer are known today. Only 35 to 40 works that are attributed to him do exist (views on authencity of some works differ).

Table of contents
1 Technique
2 Themes
3 Influences by other painters
4 His Works
5 Forgeries
6 External Links


Vermeer's transparent colours were produced by bringing the paint unto the canvas in loosely granular layers, a technique called pointillé (not to be confused with Pointillism). It is thought that Vermeer possibly used the Camera Obscura to achieve a perfect perspective in his compositions.


Almost all of Vermeer's paintings are in house scenes (even the two landscapes that we know are seen from within through a window). He painted mostly genre pieces and portraits. As an exception he left us also two city views.

His painting cover all layers of society, at one time portraying a simple milkmaid at work, at other works showing the luxury and splendour of rich notables and merchantmen in their roomy houses. Religious and scientific connotations can be found in his works.

Influences by other painters

His Works

Milkmaid 1658-1660


Han van Meegeren (1898-1947) was a Dutch painter who liked to work in the classic tradition. Originally to prove that critics were wrong about his qualities as a painter, he decided to paint a fake Vermeer. Later, he forged more Vermeers and works of other painters, just to get the money. Van Meegeren fooled everyone in the art establishment, and was only taken serious after demonstrating his skills in front of police witnesses (see article about van Meegeren for reasons why). His aptitude at forgery shocked the art world and hence made it even more difficult to assess the authenticiy of works attributed to Vermeer.

External Links