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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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A fundamental contributor to the Dutch Golden Age, Jan Vermeer beautifully captured life in the 17th century with his near-photographic style of painting.

Vermeer was an inquisitive individual who found enjoyment in capturing lives from the opposite ends of society. Rather than becoming a court painter such as Diego Velazquez or Francisco de Goya where an artist's time would be devoted entirely to the ruling classes, Jan was able to balance his inspirations.

The artist rose to fame at a time when Dutch art was dominating the world, with the likes of Vermeer and Rembrandt having followed in the footsteps of other masters to have come from this region of Northern Europe, such as Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Much of the early work of Vermeer would hint at influences from Italian artist Caravaggio, taking in religious and mythological themes and incorporating that master's extraordinary use of lighting. It was then his later work which began to bear the elements of the work of Rembrandt van Rijn.

Vermeer's own qualities as an artist were found in the realistic detail that he was able to reproduce in his paintings. His innovative techniques could bring surfaces to life, giving the impression that the viewer was in the painting themselves.

Typically this was an artist who would present a scene of relative simplicity and allow the viewer to construct their own narrative for it. He was also not an overly self-reflective person, rarely choosing to paint self-portraits.

There was certainly a greater subtletly to his work than, say, Bruegel's Hunters in the Snow or Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. Those had activity and detail right across the canvas, where as Vermeer would elect to pay attention to the finest detail of surfaces and textures in a gentler setting.

Art academics would appreciate this subtlety more than an everyday art fan and this has also ensures his reputation as a true master. His control over shadow and light was aided by using a camera obscura. That would increase the contrast between different areas of a scene, allowing him to address finer details of a composition than most other artists.

These techniques helped to lift a scene off the canvas and feel truly 'real'. This three dimensional feeling would transport the viewer right into the scene.

The Most Famous Paintings by Jan Vermeer

Vermeer's captivating artistry has granted the artist the title as one of the most renowned artists during the renaissance era. His brilliant work is showcased in classic art galleries including the National Gallery of Art, The Louvre, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The most famous painting by Vermeer is The Girl with a Pearl Earring. The magnificent painting showcases a young woman posing as she shifts her body turning backwards and catching the gaze of the viewer. The oil on canvas artwork dates back to 1665 during the Dutch Golden Age, which highlighted the style of the Netherlands during the 17th century.

Another captivating piece of art by Vermeer is The Milkmaid that manifests a woman bestowed in a kitchen pouring milk into a bowl. The artist was passionate about showcasing the life style of the Dutch people throughout his paintings.

The View of Delft is one of the most famous paintings by the artist as he reveals the composition of his city through a classic landscape painting.

Famous Artists who Influenced Vermeer

Vermeer has received no formal education throughout his career as an artist yet had seized an array of knowledge from other brilliant painters before his time. The artist was known to have studied the work of Leonardo Da Vinci.

Vermeer is also believed to have seized inspiration from Caravaggio, a brilliant Italian painter who used a Baroque style.

Due to the limited number of resources around Vermeer at the time, the artist had used an array of inspiration around him. The Catholicism in Delft had influenced the artist's work as he incorporated biblical stories into his paintings as evident in Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, and Diana and her Companions. These paintings were based on stories from the New Testament which has influenced Vermeer's work.

The artist also seized inspiration from the calm city of Delft in which he lived in, which includes one of his most famous artworks, the View on Delft. Vermeer's desire to showcase the imagery around him lead him to paint The Little Street, which reveals a part of the city of Delft.

Famous Artists Influenced by Vermeer

A brilliant artist who was influenced by the timeless work of Vermeer is Dutch painter Gabriel Metsu. The artist has up rose around the midst of Vermeer's career and was captivated by the Baroque style of art dominated.

The Dutch painter was a colleague of Vermeer who incorporated a realist technique to showcase elements of drama, emotion, and violence within his work.

Vermeer had also influenced similar Dutch artist, Pieter De Hooch, a colleague who followed the wave of the Dutch Golden Age gaining worldwide recognition.

Spanish artist, Salvador Dali, is said of have been highlight influenced by the array of Vermeer's work that incorporated many different styles into one. Vermeer is highly recognized as a prominent artist who seized elements of the Dutch Golden Age by viewing the new shift in art in his own style.

Vermeer's Role within the Dutch Golden Age

The Dutch Golden Age was a prominent moment in Netherland's history where the nation held the role as the world's superpower. Vermeer is known as one of the most famous artists during the time as he moulded Netherland's art scene.

Vermeer played a prominent role in shaping the significance of art during the Dutch Golden Age as his fundamental notion of craft promoted the work as a classic entity.

The artist was an ambitious painting seeking to carve out his own structure to showcase his work and style. He was seized with displaying his art in the public eye, shifting the style towards the Baroque art with a Dutch flare to it.

Vermeer's strides to incorporate different elements of style and technique into his work captivated society at the time as his contemporaries were influenced by his work. His technique expanded boundaries, as his extraordinary ability was the secret formula needed to transcend the art world of the Netherlands.

Vermeer's integrative approach at intertwining different elements in art, such a religion, social order, and symbolism together, allowed for his work to be a impeccable representation of the nation.

The Fall and Rise of Johannes Vermeer

While the impeccable artist was a prominent figure in shaping the Dutch Golden Age era, his work was highly praised only in later years well after his death.

The artist's captivating artwork was forgotten for many years until the 19th century as his impact began to be praised.

Vermeer began receiving popularity for his work when French art critic and politician Theophile Thore-Burger released a series of articles showcasing the artist's forgotten work.

Throughout the 1920's the artist's work came into popularity as the world began to witness his impeccable style and influence to the Dutch Golden Age. Vermeer today is well known, as a brilliant artist that laid the foundation for an array of artist's to follow in his footsteps.

The artist's mystical talents were forgotten upon his rapid death and for the next 200 years after that. It was through the exact identification to his work and an increasing array of information on him that Vermeer was highly recognized.