Vermeer’s technique

Vermeer produced transparent colours by applying paint onto the canvas in loosely granular layers, a technique called pointillé (not to be confused with pointillism). No drawings have been securely attributed to Vermeer, and his paintings offer few clues to preparatory methods. David Hockney, among other historians and advocates of the Hockney-Falco thesis, has speculated that Vermeer used a camera obscura to achieve precise positioning in his compositions, and this view seems to be supported by certain light and perspective effects which would result from the use of such lenses and not the naked eye alone; however, the extent of Vermeer’s dependence upon the camera obscura is disputed by historians.

There is no other seventeenth century artist who from very early on in his career employed, in the most lavish way, the exorbitantly expensive pigment lapis lazuli, natural ultramarine. Not only used in elements that are intended to be shown as appearance: the earth colours umber and ochre should be understood as warm light from the strongly-lit interior, reflecting its multiple colours back onto the wall.

This working method most probably was inspired by Vermeer’s understanding of Leonardo’s observations that the surface of every object partakes of the colour of the adjacent object.[5] This means that no object is ever seen entirely in its natural colour.

A comparable but even more remarkable yet effectual use of natural ultramarine is in The Girl with a Wineglass (Braunschweig). The shadows of the red satin dress are underpainted in natural ultramarine, and due to this underlying blue paint layer, the red lake and vermilion mixture applied over it acquires a slightly purple, cool and crisp appearance that is most powerful.

Even after Vermeer’s supposed financial breakdown following the so-called rampjaar (year of disaster) in 1672, he continued to employ natural ultramarine most generously, such as in the above-mentioned “Lady Seated at a Virginal.” This could suggest that Vermeer was supplied with materials by a collector, and would coincide with John Michael Montias’ theory of Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven being Vermeer’s patron.

(Taken from the Wiki)

4 responses to “Vermeer’s technique

  1. Approximately half a dozen of Vermeer’s works may be considered true masterworks. The rest of his ouvre are workmanlike; hardly indicative of the level of quality required to be considered genuine masterpieces. He was, afterall, an artist for hire, plain and simple, and the vast majority of his paintings were conceived and executed in this regard. He ranks third behind Maxfield Parrish and William M. Harnett as the most original, and gifted, artist of all time. Fourth would be Titian, fifth Reubens, sixth da Vinci, seventh van Horne, eighth van Eyke, ninth Hymdaclosz, and tenth, Raphael. Vermeer was a man of severe depressive periods and extreme ranges of mood. In current consideration, he would be diagnosed extremely bipolar. He also frequently exhibited a nearly incomprehensible rage for brief periods. Three of his paintings were destroyed by his own hand in mid-composition in this manner. He was also a drunkard, a failed innkeeper, and held an ongoing affair with Greta san Bahcs for nearly eighteen years (she posed for “Girl With A Pearl Earring”). After a slate of poor investments, he lost his inn, and was forced to occupy several rooms in the rear of the first floor, paying his rent for this occupation with an original painting to the new owners, Hans and Elizabeth Coebles; “A View of Delft, Early Evening”. This work, at 6’6″ x 8’3″, was the largest work which Vermeer ever produced. Sketches of the painting survive, although the original canvas is now lost. Vermeer’s wife was mentally unstable, a condition which evidenced itself after the birth of their eighth child, and only worsened as the years progressed. In what little free time Vermeer had, he enjoyed long walks in the country, especially during the winter, Pasnuit (an early version of ice hockey), hunting pheasant with a bow, and engaging in marathon chess tournaments. He also had a particular fondness for engaging the services of myriad prostitutes who frequented Ye Olde Cock Ande Bull Pub in the Delft Common Inn; it is speculated that, because of this interaction, he may have passed syphilis onto his wife, initiating her mental decline. After Vermeer succumbed to alcohol poisoning at age 43, his widow was forced to sell several of his canvases to pay debts regarding bakery purchases, butcher’s fees, and arrears in rental arangements. Two years later she remarried a local count, Honore de Sacristy, a nobleman of independent wealth, and passed syphilis onto him; they both died mad in seclusion, and six of their eight children also died mad from the same malady. Their third child, Ingrid, somehow escaped this fate by some natural genetic immunity, as did their fifth child, Ilsa, and both children not only survived to adulthood, but married and bore nine and twelve children, respectively. None of Vermeer’s descendants, as evidenced by history, exhibited any known artistic ability, and his bloodline consisted mainly of common laborers, stone masons, field hands and works of that ilk. It is believed that a newly discovered painting by this Dutch master, irrefutably by his hand, would sell at auction for quite a lot of money.

    • I have read much about Vermeer but except for the part his widow about selling paintings to pay the bakery bills etc I have never read anything about him dying of alcohol poisoning, the syphilis and the other charges against him and his family.

      Where did you get that information from?

      Frankly it sounds like the name of the Pub you said he frequented – Ye Cocke ande Bull.

  2. Consider the so-called “lost” Vermeers, recently attributed to this Dutch master: 1) “Girl With a Peach”, 2) “The Beermaid”, 3) “A Woman Weighing Options”, 4) “A Young Woman Snoring”, 5) “The Shuttlecock Lesson”, 6) “Girl With a Stein of Ale”, 7) “The Dear John Letter”, 8) “Girl Wretching Violently, After Too Much Wine Consumption, Into An Alleyway Through An Open Door”, 9) “The Tuba Player”, and, 10) A View Of A Brick Wall By Moonlight”.

  3. Ah, Wilhelm, I think you’re just funnin’ with us. Everbody knows there were only nine so-called “lost” Vermeers. The other consideration, “Girl With A Stein of Ale”, could not wholly be contributed to him by mutual consent of the International Evaluation Committee, and may in fact be the work of one of his admirers, Shunte Van Loon. Quit kidding around, this is serious art history we’re talking about here. I mean, really, come on… The next thing you’ll tell us is that “Two Maids Returning From the Barn With Cans of Milk” is not by Ritolli, at all, but is, instead, the work of Gustave der Eppes…! Very amusing, indeed.

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