Johannes Vermeer (October 1632 – December 1675) was a Dutch Baroque Period painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. He was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime but evidently was not wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings.
Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, and frequently used very expensive pigments. He is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work.
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Interesting Facts About Vermeer
- His artistic achievements went largely unnoticed throughout his life and in the centuries that followed.
Though Vermeer now holds his place in history books as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age, he wasn’t always so admired. Until the 19th century, he enjoyed little-to-no success as an artist, and many of his pieces were credited as the work of other Dutch artists, including Metsu and Mieris.
- The Dutch Master had no formal training, suggesting he was self-taught.
Because evidence and details surrounding his life are still minimal, where and under whom—if anybody—Vermeer apprenticed remains a mystery. Naturally, theories about his influences abound, but the general consensus, first posited by American art historian Walter Liedtke, is that Vermeer was a self-taught man.
- There are only 36 authenticated paintings by Vermeer in the world.
Vermeer was an intensely methodical painter, working carefully and with great attention to detail. Therefore, the artist’s output was limited; at present, he only has 36 canvases to his name.
- In the late 1930s and early ’40s, a copycat artist forged and sold works he marketed as newly discovered Vermeers.
From 1938 to 1945, Han van Meegeren created paintings he passed off as original Vermeers, fooling experts and collectors alike, in a move that earned him what would be roughly $30 million today.
It was only after World War II that a strange turn of events revealed van Meegeren’s forgeries. Having sold a painting to the prominent Nazi deputy Hermann Goering, van Meegeren defended himself against accusations of collaborating with the Nazis by revealing that he had dealt Goering a fake. As such, van Meegeren then proceeded to call himself a hero for having “hoodwinked” the enemy. He was nevertheless convicted of fraud and sentenced to a year in prison.
- In 1971, Vermeer’s Love Letter was stolen from the Fine Arts Palace in Brussels in an ill-devised heist.
On September 23, 1971, a twenty-one-year-old man named Mario Roymans broke into the Fine Arts Palace in Brussels and stole Love Letter, which was on loan from Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum as part of the Rembrandt and his Age exhibition.
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