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Jan Vermeer's Career

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Seventeenth-Century Art Writing Assignment

Jan Vermeer's career spread over a century of great change- in art, technology, and social customs. In art, subject matter ceased to be the most important component of great paintings. This allowed artists to discover how to appreciate and portray the sheer beauty of the world. One of the greatest of these masters was Jan Vermeer, born a generation after Rembrandt. Vermeer did not paint many pictures in his life, and few of them represent important scenes. Specializing in genre paintings (subjects of everyday life), he mainly painted ordinary figures engaged in ordinary tasks, such as a lady reading a letter or a young lady playing a lute. Yet what made these paintings such masterpieces was the way Vermeer achieved meticulous precision in the presentation of textures, light, and colors without the paintings ever looking unnatural or harsh.

In his life, Vermeer painted in two distinct styles: the first style (from 1653-1664) was characterized by brilliant use of color and an aggressive painting technique, whereas the second style was smoother and more refined with pale and softer colors. In other words, his style moved from one more characterized by a more masculine vigor to one of refined delicate subtlety. What remained throughout both styles was his exquisite combination of color and precision that harmonized figures and space.

Johannes Vermeer was born in Delft, Holland in 1632. As a youth he was apprenticed to Carl Fabritus and in 1653 he entered the Guild of Saint Luke of Delft wherein he became director. Although art was his main focus, he was also an innkeeper and kept a tavern in the Market Square. This area was a very rowdy place to live and work, and Vermeer apparently enjoyed painting as an escape from the crowded market and noisy tavern. Many historians are still uncertain as to where all his paintings went, but some say he was hired by Van Ruijven, a rich liberal protestant, who was the master of the Delft Charity Commissioners. Due to slow production, he suffered from financial difficulties despite his success in selling his works, and in 1675 at the age of 43 he died leaving his wife and eight children in abject poverty.

The Procuress was painted in 1656 and is a good example of Vermeer's first style. This scene is painted with remarkable strength of color and light around the soldier and the woman who obviously hold



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