Title: Johannes Vermeer & Intimacy.

Hi there!

It's my first article for the Gazette Writers Team and I wanted to talk about art and, to be precise, about a man whose work I feel is underrated. I'm talking about Johannes Vermeer -- you may know him for The Girl with the Pearl Earring or The Milkmaid.

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The Beginning

As an introduction, I must say my fascination for Vermeer started a few years ago when I studied Art History and my teacher recommended a book by Tracy Chevalier. I read it in a matter of brief hours. It wasn't the real story behind the painting, but her interpretation of what was going on behind the scenes and in the process of that painting.

The book I'm talking about is Girl With a Pearl Earring: A Servant's Life, a Master's Obsession, a Matter of Honour.

Since then, I have had a huge love for Vermeer and his paintings. Also, I want to tell you what made me fall in love with his work, which is in the title of this article.

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Johannes Vermeer

He was born into a family that had several criminal cases; his father and his mother's brother were implicated in a well-known currency counterfeiting case in 1619 and the following year his paternal grandmother also participated in a scam whose victim was a wealthy merchant, along with the fact that the family was always persecuted by debts, little conducive to creating works as calm, introspective and refined as those he carried out throughout his life.

The first contact with the world of art of the young Johannes could be through his father, who, from 1631, dedicated himself to the art trade. In his inn, he exhibited the works of some artists in the city, and upon the death of his father, the painter, in addition to inheriting the inn, was also supposed to keep the painting trade.

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Vermeer's economic situation improved when he married in 1653 Catharina Bolmes, who belonged to a wealthy Catholic family. Perhaps when moving to the home of his wife's family, Johannes found himself calmer and more peaceful than in the paternal inn.

In this same year, he enrolled in the painters' guild of San Lucas, although we do not know who his teachers were either. Although as María Cóndor maintains, “the reminiscences of Caravaggio from Utrecht in his first works and in those that appear to be from a phase of transition towards 1658 have made me think about a formation in this city”.

What is known is that in 1662 and 1670, he was elected trustee of the Saint Luke's Guild, where, in 1663, received the visit of the French Crown Councilor Balthasar de Moncoyns, who liked to visit the artists' workshops. In 1672, together with other artists, he was called to The Hague to assess a collection of paintings sold by an Amsterdam merchant to the elector of Brandenburg.

In 1671, he would inherit an amount of money from his sister and mother-in-law and gave him the power to represent her in a matter of testamentary, ruin, and debts. Perhaps due to the number of children he had (between 11 or 15), and by the devastation that the French caused in the city, they punctuated all their life, so much that perhaps it was the cause of his sudden death in 1675, according to the testimony of his wife.
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The intimacy in his paintings

Vermeer's greatest paradox is that although he escapes us as a human being, it is precisely the human dimension of his art that has most conquered viewers in the first instance, even before noticing his technical mastery.

And it is precisely that feeling of intimacy, of calm, that attracts the viewer because he makes us feel that we are part of that scene.

In addition, his works also help to know what daily life was like in the sixteenth-century in Holland. In his paintings, all social classes are represented, from the peasants, the atmosphere of taverns, to the aristocracy and the cultured and refined bourgeoisie.

In this regard, his Calvinistic roots must be highlighted, a religion that is inspired by the idea that everyone is the work of God and that, therefore, all things deserve to be praised and represented.

It is also very interesting to note how he paints ordinary people, especially women, reading, writing or studying, or scenes representing schools, and how they appear in the works of Dutch artists of that time. And especially in Vermeer, an aspect that denotes that Dutch society. In addition to being economically prosperous, it was notable for its high literacy rate.

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In Vermeer's works, the rooms are like boxes in which figures, architectural elements, furniture, and accessories are wisely placed, establishing a network of verticals and horizontals through which the viewer's gaze runs, sometimes guided by the outlined perspective for the two-color tiles, which happens in a prodigious tour de force such as The Music Lesson, showing how far our artist meditated on his compositions.

There is another element in Vermeer's paintings that is essential: the view from the left angle which includes the left wall of the room, where a window appears that is the main, or the only one, the entrance of light, which includes in an illusionist way to the viewer.

Vermeer is not interested in narrating stories. There is no action, only contemplation or reflection. They are stories without beginning or end, only sometimes a brief gesture of a hand, a head that turns, but the usual thing is that the characters that appear in the composition are engrossed in what they are doing, especially in their missives or in their music, the two activities most represented in their paintings. In his oils, there are few characters, at most two, but with passing time, he will be mostly just one figure.

In conclusion, Vermeer has gone down in art history for his scenes of women in the intimacy of the home, bathed in a prodigious light, writing, reading, or playing a musical instrument.

And that's all!

I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed doing it, and I also hope it makes some of you curious enough to take a step forward into art. Until the next article!

❇ 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐀𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐥𝐞𝐬 𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐌𝐚𝐲 𝐄𝐧𝐣𝐨𝐲:

❇ 𝐌𝐲 𝐖𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐂𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧:

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This article was written by @newdiork on the We Heart It Gazette Team.