By Darla McCammon
The Dutch Golden Age Artists include some lofty figures such as Rembrandt and Frans Hals. Not so highly esteemed during his life, Johannes (Jan) Vermeer is today lauded as one of that elite group. He was not impoverished as his work was moderately successful, but like many other artists his work grew in reputation and recognition after his death. If you will notice in his painting of The Milkmaid (photo provided) the setting is very similar to almost all of his paintings. A strong light is coming in the window of his home in Delft. You will often see furniture and accessories from his home in many of his portraits.
Vermeer married a Catholic woman who had a wealthy mother. Some of his paintings took a religious bent after his conversion at the urging of his mother-in-law. Vermeer was not a prolific artist. His work was precise and carefully crafted. Only 34 paintings are recognized as his work, although some authorities say that number should be 66. Like Rembrandt Vermeer began to collect art by other artists and also became a dealer but still did not become wealthy, in spite of his in-law. leaving his family in debt on his death. Some of his paintings took a religious bent after his conversion when Vermeer and his family moved in with his mother-in-law. His wife bore him 15 children which surely contributed to the family financial struggles. In 1654, the city of Delft experienced an enormous explosion that crippled the economy and added to financial woes for many citizens including Vermeer.
Vermeer was known for using only the best supplies, including very expensive colors and paints, including the lustrous blue, lapis lazuli, that you can see in his The Milkmaid masterpiece. He sold fewer works than the average artist because he charged more than the average for his finished paintings. During this time in his career, Vermeer joined the art Guild of Saint Luke and was elected head of the guild within a short time. He was re-elected for several more years.
Questions have arisen over the years regarding the use of optics such as curved mirrors, the camera obscura, and another device called the camera lucida. Many great artists of this era were accused of using these tools to help enhance and increase accuracy of their paintings. After his death art historians have included Vermeer as one who may have used such tools in spite of the fact that no evidence, including the equipment, exists to support this theory.
Disaster hit the Netherlands in 1672 with another economic failure followed by the French Army invasion, the Third Anglo Dutch War from England and lastly an attack from the Germans! In 1675 Vermeer became ill and died. His wife claimed all this coupled with paintings that did sell and a family he could not support, tragically claimed his life. Nevertheless, Jan Vermeer left us a beautiful legacy of masterpieces for the world to enjoy.
COMING UP: New and exciting exhibit at Lakeland Art Gallery. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.Wednesdays through Saturdays. 302 E. Winona Ave., Warsaw. Phone: (574)-267-5568. Marc Eckel will be exhibiting at LAA March 31. Eckel is a very successful artist and has traveled world-wide with the famous music group “Casting Crowns” to display his unique art work, in person, at those concerts. Also. Visit Al Disbro Photography exhibit at Warsaw City Hall Art Gallery. Through April. Questions or comments for column Author/Artist Darla McCammon? Email: [email protected]. Want to be a potential exhibitor? Contact me. Subject: Art exhibit.