V is for Vermeer

Jan Vermeer is one of my favorite painters because of his devotion to perfection.

Records on the Dutch master who lived from 1632 to 1675 are scant and there's no indication he left his native town of Delft, which appears to be one of those sleepy Dutch towns of weeping willows, verges choked with tulips and mellow church towers that shimmer under the big skies of the flat lands.

There's no evidence that Vermeer did the typical painter things like chopping off the occasional ear and falling into fits of depression, rage and debauchery but we really don't know much about him.

Rather he quietly enjoyed the light and created some of the finest masterpieces known to the history of art, albeit in an economical way. Only 40 of his works have come to light.

"The secret of Vermeer's craftsmanship may be found in a remark by Michelangelo, who said that little things or trifles, done to perfection, build up into great things or art," Thomas Craven wrote in the Readers Digest Treasury of Great Painters.

The Little Street by Vermeer is one of only two landscapes that have come to light. It was apparently the view from his house and typifies a sleepy Dutch backwater back in the 17th century.

I picked up a postcard of this painting after a somewhat heavy night in Amsterdam with some friends years ago and found myself yearning to explore some quiet streets in the weak sunlight.


  1. I love Vermeer's work because I love that attention to detail. You can spend so much time looking at the same work.

  2. I love Vermeer too. I saw one of his paintings in the National Gallery here in Dublin and loved it.

    Gabriel Metsu is a painter from the same period with a similar style - apparently in the 1800s when Metsu was fashionable and Vermeer forgotten, it was not unusual for Vermeers to be sold as Metsus. Might be worth checking out if you like Vermeer :)

  3. I loved visiting The Netherlands, but sadly didn't make it to Delft when I was there. Reason to go back though! And I really enjoyed reading The Girl with the Pearl Earring too! I'm not as familiar with the art work though, I'll admit!

  4. I had no idea, and I love this sort of information. (My art education is sorely lacking depth.)

    Also, love the piccap widget. Very cool.


  5. Vermeer is my absolute favourite painter. The way that he uses light is just amazing. I once sat in the gallery in Den Haag looking at the Girl with The Pearl Earring for over an hour! It's so sad to think that he died impoverished. I choose not to think he was an almost-adulterer like in the movie :P

  6. Excellent post David! I remember when Vermeer's The Concert was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum some 20 years ago. I don't think it's yet been recovered. So sad. Nothing like the Dutch masters. Jan van Huysum's still lifes of flowers are breathtaking. The MFA, Boston, has a nice collection of the Dutch masters.

  7. I do really enjoy spending time in art galleries though I do not think I have seen an original Vermeer yet. I loved this post but particularly the final line which was so evocative and magical. It was quite poetic really.

  8. Vermeer is truly beautiful. His ability to capture life on canvas was so exceptional.
    What a great blog, I'm enjoying reading back through your posts. Thank you!

  9. Sadly, I do not know that much about Vermeer's work. I'm off to google images of his work...


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