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Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer

Master of light and color

Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) was a Dutch painter who specialized in everyday scenes of middle-class life. Recognized in his lifetime in Delft and The Hague, Vermeer was a somewhat successful genre painter who is now known for only a few paintings—some say a mere 34. Even so, the paintings that have come down to us from the hand of Jan Vermeer place him beside Rembrandt and Frans Hals as one of the great masters of the Dutch Golden Age. Little is known of Vermeer’s early life and training, though we can be certain that he never knew great success or acclaim during his lifetime. He was likely not very wealthy despite his renown since he left his wife in debt. After his death—reputedly in part because of the stress of his debts—his work was almost completely forgotten for the better part of two centuries. But fortunately for us his work was rediscovered in the 19th century by Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Théophile Thoré-Bürger who wrote an essay on the Dutch artist. Today he is acknowledged as an exquisitely talented and highly original artist. Most of his pictures show middle-class people, especially women, going about their daily business, like The Milkmaid, which shows a domestic interior scene and allows us to see an everyday activity from the 17th century as well as the famous Delft wall tiles common as home decoration. Vermeer records the tasks and duties of these women, the imperatives of virtue under which their lives were lived, while also evoking their dreams and their contrasting inner worlds. No painting exemplifies this more than Girl with the Pearl Earring, painted in 1665 and universally recognized as a masterpiece, the work is known as the “Dutch Mona Lisa.” Vermeer’s paintings, including others like The Astronomer and The Girl with the Wine Glass show the painter’s exquisite use of color and virtuoso use of light.

TASCHEN’s Vermeer books present the calm yet compelling scenes so treasured in galleries across the world in monographs of the utmost reproduction quality. The Vermeer XL Edition brings together the complete catalogue of Vermeer’s work with brand new photography of many works, like Girl with a Pearl Earring, and unfolds in a generous format, including three foldout spreads. Numerous details emphasize the artist’s remarkable ability not only to bear witness to the trends and trimmings of the Dutch Golden Age but also to encapsulate an entire story in just one transient gesture, expression, or look.