Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Vermeer, Johannes

Girl with the Red Hat
oil on panel
23.2 × 18.1 cm (9.1 × 7.1 in)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA

"Truth is the daughter of time, and I feel no shame in being her midwife." (Vermeer)

Girl with a Red Hat is one of a number of Vermeer's tronies - Dutch term which refers to paintings of busts or heads, generally wearing hats or exotic clothes and depicting anonymous or fictive characters. Among all of Vermeer's paintings, this is perhaps the one which comes closest to the type of image produced by an instrument known as the camera obscura, an optical device which aroused the curiosity of Dutch scientists and artists in Vermeer's time. With the aid of a lens, it allowed the user to project an image from the exterior onto a wall in a dark room or on the surface of a small chamber specially prepared for it.

Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer (1632 - 1675) was a Dutch painter who specialized in exquisite, domestic interior scenes of middle class life. Relatively little is known for certain about his life and career. He was the son of a silk worker with a taste for buying and selling art. Vermeer himself was also active in the art trade. His works are largely genre pieces and portraits, with the exception of two cityscapes and two allegories. His subjects offer a cross-section of seventeenth century Dutch society, ranging from the portrayal of a simple milkmaid at work, to the luxury and splendor of rich notables and merchantmen in their roomy houses. He lived and worked in Delft all his life.

Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime. He seems never to have been particularly wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings. His works are rare. 35 or 36 paintings are generally attributed to him. All his works are admired for the sensitivity with which he rendered effects of light and color and for the poetic quality of his images.