Never before has it been possible to collect 28 Johannes Vermeer`s paintings, a prominent representative of the golden age of Netherlandish painting, under one roof. The exhibition at the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum claims to be the exhibition of the year.
There are a few paintings by the 43-year-old painter. By the time of the artist’s death in mid-December 1675, his collection consisted of 37 works, and there are discussions about the authenticity of three of them.
Opening on February 10, the exhibition features 28 paintings, eight more than the exhibition at the Mauritshuis Gallery in The Hague in 1996. Vermeer`s paintings were donated to the capital of the Netherlands by art museums from all over the world, as well as private collections in Europe and the USA.
It is difficult to describe what exactly attracts admirers of his work – the manner of working with a brush and color, mastery of technique, virtuoso play with lighting effects, composition or accuracy of perspective.
“Vermeer was a master of light,” says one of the exhibit’s curators, Gregor Weber. None of the artists managed to portray the light so realistic and at the same time full of mysterious peace.
At the age of 21, Vermeer was admitted to the Delft Guild of St. Luke as an artist. At first, he took up historical topics: plots from the Bible and the history of antiquity, legends about saints … Bold strokes create a color space in which a distinct contrast of light and shadow is reminiscent of Italian painters such as Caravaggio.
Later, the artist switched to genre painting. He transferred everyday scenes to canvases: a maid pouring milk into a bowl, a girl reading a letter, a girl from a good family at a music lesson… In these Johannes Vermeer`s paintings, time seems to be frozen.
Over the years, Vermeer’s painting technique has improved. With small strokes, he created the illusion of light dancing on the surface, and objects acquired plasticity. For example, a girl from one of the most famous paintings has a pearl earring – a reflection of light, no more, but no less.
The later Vermeer`s paintings are characterized by pronounced incident rays, and the writing technique seems to be simplified.
In Rijksmuseum, the paintings are placed in spacious rooms, where thick curtains create a special atmosphere. All collected masterpieces are behind protective glass. There is a reason for this: in October 2022, the “Girl with a Pearl Earring” was attacked by environmental activists, one of whom tried to glue his own head to the picture, and the second poured soup from a can on the first one. The canvas was not damaged.
Vermeer died in poverty in 1675, leaving behind a wife and ten minor children. Soon after his death, the name of the artist was forgotten. Today, Vermeer is considered one of the greatest painters, mainly because of the quality and originality of each painting.
The exhibition at the Rijksmuseum will run until 4 June 2023. A few days before the opening, 150,000 tickets were already sold.