Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675) was a Dutch Baroque Era painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle class life. Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime. He seems to have been especially revered by his contemporaries in Delft. Although only about 36 of his paintings exist, these rare works are among the most highly regarded paintings in the history of art. His work is enjoyed by a large number of people today for its brilliant use of light and color as well as its poetic quality.
Johannes Vermeer was born in Delft, the Netherlands, in 1632. His father, Reijnier Janszoon, was a middle-class silk merchant. Little is known of Vermeer’s early life and education, but it is believed that he began his artistic training in the mid-1640s. In 1653, he joined the Delft Guild of Saint Luke, a professional association for artists. Around this time, he also married Catharina Bolnes, with whom he would have eight children.
Vermeer’s earliest known painting, “The Procuress” (c. 1656), depicts a man and a woman in a brothel. The painting is noteworthy for its innovative use of light and shadow to create a sense of space. Vermeer continued to experiment with light and color in his later works, such as “The Concert” (c. 1658) and “The Allegory of Faith” (c. 1670).
In the early 1660s, Vermeer began to receive commissions from wealthy patrons in Amsterdam. These paintings, such as “The Milkmaid” (c. 1658-1660) and “Girl with a Pearl Earring” (c. 1665), are among his best-known works.
Vermeer died in Delft in 1675, at the age of 43. His death coincided with a general economic downturn, which led to decreased demand for paintings. As a result, Vermeer was relatively unknown outside of Delft at the time of his death.
It was not until the 19th century that Vermeer’s work began to attract widespread attention. In 1858, the French art critic Arsène Houssaye wrote an article praising Vermeer’s use of light and color. This sparked a renewed interest in the artist, and Vermeer’s paintings began to be exhibited in major museums across Europe and the United States. Today, Vermeer is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time.