Jan Vermeer Biography


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Jan Vermeer was born in 1632, the second child of Reynier Janszoon Vos and Digna Baltens. His father was an art dealer and knew quite a few contemporary artists of the time, these included Balthasar van der Ast, Pieter Steenwyck, and Pieter Groenewesen. Not a lot is known about his training to become an artist, but in 1653 he was admitted as a master to the Guild of St. Luke, which united painters in all genres, glass makers, faience (fine glazed earthenware) makers, embroiderers and art dealers;
On 20 April 1653 Vermeer married Catharina Bolnes, who bore him 15 children, 11 of these children survived.
Vermeer never really painted much work for the public market most of his works were commissioned by patrons. This could be the reason there are not many of his works on show.

He started painting religious subjects early in his career and one of the earliest of these is Christ in the house of Mary. He also painted mythological paintings one such being Diana. These were not his choice of subject matter and were probably painted to show off his skills to the guild he was taught in.

Vermeer's subject of choice was the everyday street scenes of Delft and its people, from the milkmaid to the astronomer, to the simple street scenes. His paintings are of intimate scenes where the person has been caught in the act of their pastime, for example, the love letter. He painted with great detail the furniture and the other surroundings. Most of his pictures have side lighting as the illumination and Vermeer is well known for his mastery of painting light playing upon his subjects and their surroundings.

Vermeer often included pictorial evidence of the subjects occupation or their moral standing, for example if the person was well educated or wealthy, or indeed both, he often placed a map in the picture. maps at the time were expensive and valued items. in his painting the soldier and laughing girl the soldier is trying to seduce the girl with wine by making her drunk. Vermeer is warning against excessive drinking, he felt this led to sins, for example, prostitution and other loose behavior. Sadly though most of the messages which his contemporaries understood we cannot understand. But this does not mean we cannot enjoy the beautiful paintings.

Painting wasn't Vermeer's only career he also worked as an art dealer. In his later years Vermeer became heavily in debt due to the effects of the war between the Netherlands and France in 1672. This his wife said 'Because of this and because of the large sums of money we had to spend on the children, sums he was no longer able to pay, he fell into such a depression and lethargy that he lost his health in the space of one and a half days and died.' He was buried on 15 December 1675 in Delft in the family grave.

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