Beyond Gobbledigook

Johannes Vermeer. The Little Street, 1657-1658. Oil on canvas, 54.3 cm × 44 cm, 21.4 in × 17.3 in; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Posted in Oil on canvas by Jessica on April 7, 2009

Johannes Vermeer. The Little Street, 1657-1658. Oil on canvas, 54.3 cm × 44 cm, 21.4 in × 17.3 in; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Once again, I judged a Northern painter. Like I did with Jan Van Eyck, I thought Jan Vermeer was boring. I was uninterested in Dutch paintings, and I know I am making a very large statement here, but I think most people are uninterested in Dutch paintings. It is probably because most of the time, we are exposed to Southern painting–Da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo–those names are all familiar to us, and their style of painting is, as well. But when I finally learned about Dutch painting, its techniques, style, and themes, I became to appreciate it so much more.

Jan Vermeer is probably most famously known for his paintings depicting Delft (especially View of Delft). He specialized in domestic interior scenes of everyday life, many of his painting are of women accomplishing domestic chores. He also uses bright colors, most notably blue and yellow.

The technique he used is called pointillé (not pointilism), where patterns were formed like punched dots. Vermeer understood the eye and the way it worked so well, that he painted based on the way the eye would receive the picture. So, in The Little Street, Vermeer didn’t completely paint the cobblestones (in fact, he never outlines any of his figures with black) because he knew that the eye would pick up the colors and shapes and automatically know that they were cobblestones.

The image copied for this post does not do the real painting justice. The colors aren’t as bright and certain features aren’t as distinct. But other than that, this painting is so simple–I feel like Vermeer just wants to show us what Dutch life was like. It’s so calm and the two women appear to be very concentrated on their work, as though they are not affected by a viewer or others. Vermeer was able to make ordinary life so beautiful.



One Response

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  1. michael stewart said, on April 9, 2009 at 3:33 AM

    Not one word about the story?

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