In this page about ‘View of Delft’, a painting by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, I am going to make a brief comment on the author and on the painting. I am going to use different sources to write this approach to the painting, and I am going to leave the links to other interesting pages about the topic. My language will be as simple as possible.
Introduction to the painting
‘View of Delft’ is one of Johannes Vermeer most famous paintings. Along with ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’, this painting has been considered one of Vermeer’s masterpieces. It was made between year 1659 and year 1660. the technique used for this painting was oil on canvas. Vermeer’s most artworks are made out in this technique. This painting specifically, is displayed in the Mauritshuis Art Museum, in the city of The Hague, in the Netherlands. A brief description of ‘View of Delft’ would be that it is an idealized vision of the city of Delft, that is in the Netherlands. Moreover, it is executed in full, rich pigmentation, with colour accents put in with a fully loaded brush.
I am going to divide this page in two different subjects. First, I am going to write about the author; I will introduce you to Johannes Vermeer with a short biography and a mention to some of his best-known paintings. Then, I am going to write about the painting itself: in this ocassion, I will make a brief description of what we can see in the painting and about how the painting was done.
The author: Johannes Vermeer
Johannes Vermeer was born on 31st October, 1632, and was buried on December 16, 1675. He was born and died in the city of Delft, Netherlands. He was specialized in painting domestic, interior, scenes of life. He used contrast of light and shadow in all his works, and he used to make them in a technique called oil on canvas. ‘View of Delft’ is one of his rare pictures in which there is not presented an interior scene; anothe rone could be ‘The Little Street’ (1657-1661). We don’t know much about Vermeer’s life, and it is thought that he made all his works in Delft.
Vermeer was the son of a middle-class worker of silk or caffa (a mixture of silk and cooton), and that helped him in the painting of clothes. He was baptized in a Protestant church, but he married a Catholic woman called Catherina Bolenes. His mother-in-law, Maria Thins, was significantly wealthier than he, and it was probably she who insisted Vermeer convert to Catholicism before the marriage. Later, the couple moved in with Catherina’s mother, who lived in a big house at Oude Langendijk. Vermeer lived there for the rest of his life, producing paintings in the front room on the second floor, a kind of sanctuary in which the maids couldn’t move anything while cleaning. Johannes and Catherina had 14 children, but only ten of them survived.
It is not certain where Vermeer was apprenticed as a painter, nor with whom. It is generally believed that he studied in his home town. It is suggested that his teacher was either Carel Fabritius or Leonaert Bramer. Perhaps, he taught himself and got the information from his father’s contacts. Other scholars think that he went to Utrecht and was trained under the catholic painter Abraham Bloemaert, being introduced by his future mother-in-law.
On the year 1653, Vermeer became a member of the Guild of Saint Luke, an association for painters, and in year 1662, he was elected head of the guild. He was reelected in 1663, 1670, and 1671. This fact is a clear evidence of his importance among the rest painters of the guild.
As a painter, he worked slowly, producing very few paintings per year. He used to sell his paintign and in year 1672, the economic downtown damaged Vermeer’s business. In December 1975, Johannes Vermeer fell into a frenzy and he died at the age of 43. He was buried in Delft and he left his family with a great debt. Catherina and his mother had to sell all Vermeer paintings in order to pay the debts.
In regards to his style, let’s say that Vermeer liked to produce paintings executed in rich, full pigmentation with colour accents put in with a fully loaded brush.
The painting: View of Delft
After introducing the painter, I am going to analyse the painting. I think that the most important thing to say is that ‘View of Delft’ is not a real representation of the city of Delft; the city wasn’t and is not exactly like we see in the picture. Vermeer’s painting is an idealized representation of the city of Delft made between 1659 and 1660.
The first thing we notice when looking at the painting is an amazing partly cloudy sky, and, under it, the outline of the town. There is a great contrast between the sky and the buildings, and the use of light and shadow is present in all the picture. In the painting, there is an attractive contrast between this highlighted parts of teh houses and the tower and their shadowy surroundings, creating a sense of depth.
Now, I am going to describe the picture, looking to the different buildings. The Tower of the New Church is given a central role on the middle right side of the painting. Towards the right, we find the Rotterdam Gate, which consists on the main building and the barbican with the twin towers. In the middle of the painting Vermeer depicts the Schiedam Gate. This building is built of red brick, alternating with thin layers of limestone. The river we see in the painting is the Schie canal. Delft is a city full of canals, like Amsterdam.
Behind the Schiedam Gate, towards the left, we can see the roof of the Armamentarium, the weapons warehouse, which still stands today. On the left of the gate is the Kethel Gate. Vermeer has depicted people and a tow barge on the foreground in order to enliven the scene. The barge has a red&white wooden structure covered with tent-like material on it to protect its passengers against wind and rain. And moored at the shipyard towards the right are two herring ships, specifically designed and crafted for the herring fishery. Far away, in front of the city wall, a number of people are visible as tiny figures on the quay. There are also more sailing ships in the water.
Some of the buildings depicted by Vermeer still stand today. The row of houses painted by the Dutch artist is still standing in Kethel Street. However, the city of Delft has changed since Vermeer depicted his idealized version and it is impossible to asure the exact place from where he painted the city.
* Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Johannes Vermeer. [online] [07/06/06] WWW Page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Vermeer
* Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: View of Delft (Vermeer). [online] [07/06/09] WWW Page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/View_of_Delft_(Vermeer)
* Vermeer’s View of Delft and his vision of reality. [online]. [17-05-09]. WWW Page: http://www.xs4all.nl/~kalden/verm/artibus-hist1982.htm
*Some landscapes: View of Delft. [online] [17-05-09] WWW Page: http://some-landscapes.blogspot.com/2009/02/view-of-delft.html
*The ‘View of Delft’ by Johannes Vermeer, a guided art history tour through this painting [online] [17-05-09] WWW Page: http://www.xs4all.nl/~kalden/verm/view/Vermeer_main.html