Vermeer, Jan (1632-1675), Dutch painter, who
excelled in portraying comfortable interior scenes that are composed with
mathematical clarity and suffused with cool, silvery light.
Vermeer, also called Jan van der Meer van Delft,
was born in Delft and baptized on October 31, 1632. After serving a 6-year
apprenticeship, part of it probably under the Dutch painter Carel Fabritius,
he was admitted in 1653 to the guild of St Luke of Delft as a master
painter. An important member of the guild, he served four terms on its board
of governors and been well appears to have known to his contemporaries. He
made a modest living as an art dealer rather than as a painter.
Only 35 of Vermeer's canvases have survived, and
none appear to have been sold. Their small number is the result of Vermeer's
deliberate, methodical work habits, his comparatively short life, and the
disappearance of many of his paintings during the period of obscurity
following his death in Delft on December 15, 1675.
With a few exceptions, including some landscapes,
street scenes, and portraits, Vermeer's output consisted of sunlit domestic
interiors in which one or two figures are shown reading, writing, playing
musical instruments, or engaged in a domestic task. These objectively
observed, precisely executed genre paintings of Dutch life in the 17th
century are characterized by a geometrical sense of order. He was a master
of composition and in the representation of space.
Forgotten after his death and not rediscovered
until the late 19th century, his reputation steadily increased thereafter.
He is today considered one of the greatest Dutch painters. Fakes of his work
were made for a time and sold to the Germans during World War II