This week we traveled back several centuries to visit the artist Johannes Vermeer, in the city of Delft, Holland. The class did sketches and studies while several students modeled and recreated the pose "the Girl with the Pearl Earring". They had the mini- experience of working with a model in a classic art studio.
Compared to many recent lessons, this one was very serious and required a lot of focus. They put in a great effort while concentrating on light and shadows in portraits. Vermeer, one of the greatest Dutch masters, created some of the most iconic imagery in the history of art. Most of his life remains a mystery, which makes him and his paintings all the more intriguing. His father had a business dealing with silk and was also registered as an art dealer in the Delft Artist's Guild. After his death, Vermeer took over his art collection and also became head of the Art Guild. Unlike many artists, he did not travel out of Delft. He lived in a house with his wife, her mother, and 11 children, where he remained his entire life, painting from two small upstairs rooms.
His works were a major departure from his contemporaries and considered radical for the time. Typically artists were commissioned by wealthy patrons to create portraits. He had one collector of his work that allowed him the financial freedom to create his vision. His subjects were a cross-section of seventeenth-century Dutch society, ranging from the portrayal of a simple milkmaid at work, to the intimacy of private moments; reading a letter, playing music or a conversation. He is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in interior scenes. He composed the decorations and furniture like a meticulous theatrical backdrop with the characters engaged in a variety of domestic activities, always in front of a window with natural light pouring in. Each painting referenced the advances in Dutch culture, his art collection, his love of science, tapestries, and maps. It is remarkable the amount of detail inherent in such small works.
He was recognized during his lifetime in Delft but he died in obscurity. He only produced around 3 paintings a year and they remained in private families, so documenting them was difficult. He fell into obscurity and was largely overlooked by art historians for several centuries, however that changed in the 19th century due to a French art critic's efforts to identify Vermeer’s paintings. There are now 36 paintings that have been attributed to him and he has since become revered as a Master of the Dutch Golden Age of Art.