Johannes Vermeer, the renowned painter, known for such works as Girl With a Pearl Earring, had little renown as an artist during his lifetime. Having died at 43, he was relatively young, and as a result, there are just 36 known paintings attributed to him. It wasn't until Théophile Thoré-Bürger, scholar and collector, brought to light Vermeer's work in 1866 that he gained international acclaim.
One of the extraordinary things about Vermeer was his lack of formal training. Very little is know about how he became so skilled; there are no records of him studying under any contemporary artists. It is widely thought that he was self-taught. His father, a weaver by trade, bought an inn when Vermeer was young, and some historians theorize that Vermeer may have been influenced by art hung in the inn and the artists that frequented the establishment.
At the age of 21, Vermeer married a young woman named Catharina Bolnes. He and his wife eventually had eleven children! With such a large household, it is no wonder that Vermeer left behind many debts when he died in 1675.
Because Vermeer did not sign his works, we have no idea how many paintings he may have produced during his lifetime. Experts have attributed 36 images to Vermeer. Because of Théophile Thoré-Bürger's high praise of the Dutch master's works, Vermeer became very popular, and over 250 special exhibitions have featured his artwork since his death. Vermeer's A Lady Writing has traveled a whopping 155,000 miles; ironically, the farthest Vermeer ever traveled was once to Amsterdam, a mere 68 miles away from his home!
Have you ever seen one of his masterpieces? Tell us about it in the comments!
Two opportunities to learn more about
Vermeer and Art History
What Do We See Here? with Sevan Melikyan
January 25–March 1, 2021
These lectures will lend themselves to a more general understanding of paintings: What symbols do we see in the artist's baskets of tricks? How do these symbols inform the viewer about a particular painting? How often and when in art history do we stumble across these symbols? Let Sevan take you on an Armchair Journey to answer these questions. Click here to learn more.
The Northern Soul Art in Belgium and Amsterdam with Sevan Melikyan
April 19–May 1, 2022
Sevan Melikyan will guide us through three of Northern Europe's exciting and beautiful cities while exploring in-depth some of the masterworks of art by visiting world-renowned museums that reveal northern Europe as the cradle of the painting Renaissance. Click here to learn more.
Growing up in Turkey, land of mosaics and textiles, Sevan established a life-long affinity for pattern and design. The years he spent as a student in Paris and New York, visiting countless galleries and museums, introduced him to the great works that would serve him as his only training in art.
This avocation took on a new dimension in 2001 when he developed a pictural language that allowed him to reduce museum masterpieces to straight-angled minimalist paintings and communicate with his viewers his understanding and appreciation of these works.
Joan Hill, Artful Journeys Director and
Carla Bohnett, Artful Journeys Co-Director