Vermeer Study Day

Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 2023

The largest ever exhibition of paintings by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) will take place at the Rijskmuseum, Amsterdam from 10th February to 4th June 2023. Of the 35 surviving works attributed to Vermeer, 28 will be on display brought together from galleries around the world.

Vermeer is one of the most famous and most loved of all artists. We respond to the calmness of his interiors, the outward gentleness of his characters with their suggestion of a more complex inner life. Vermeer was celebrated for the care and time he lavished on his work and even though many of his paintings are of quite simple subjects, they are laden with detail. Vermeer missed nothing. Above all, it is Vermeer’s ability to depict light that attracts modern audiences to him. There is a clarity to his painting that draws us in.

This study day (which can also serve as a shortened stand-alone lecture) looks in detail at the paintings in the Rijksmuseum exhibition. The aim of the day is to provide background and analysis for those visiting Amsterdam for the exhibition but also for anyone who simply wishes to understand why Vermeer is seen as such an important, revolutionary and much-loved painter.

We begin with a brief consideration of the context within which Dutch art of the 17th century was produced – the so-called Golden Age. It was a particular set of social, political and religious circumstances that led to the creation of a new country, a new society, new ways of seeing the world and new subject matters for painting.

We then looking in detail at Vermeer’s life and career. He spent almost all his life in the small town of Delft and he died in poverty with his career apparently a failure. It was only in the 19th century that Vermeer was “rediscovered”. Using the paintings in the exhibition, we will discuss Vermeer’s techniques including his use of light, colour and optics to create a heightened sense of realism. There will be plenty of opportunity for discussion and the sharing of views and reactions to the paintings.