Item description for Johannes Vermeer 1632-1675 (Rijksmuseum Dossiers) by Mariet Westermann...
Mariet Westermann analyses Vermeer's work and his place in the history of art on the basis of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum's four paintings, which span the range of his production from early to late, from cityscape to genre, from domestic chores to refined living.
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Marië t Westermann is director of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. She is the author of "Rembrandt: Arts and Ideas" and has contributed to many exhibition catalogues on seventeenth-century Dutch art.
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A Celebration of Vermeer Oct 25, 2006
Mariet Westermann writes elegantly and with wisdom about this poetic Dutch Master. As a collaborator with Alejandro Vergara on his Vermeer and the Dutch Interior, the beautiful catolog for this show at The Prado in 2003, she wrote "Vermeer and the Interior Imagination," one of the most insightful essays about the artist penned over the last 30 years. In the present work, she focusses upon the four Vermeers now lodged in the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam)--the Kitchen Maid, the Little Street, the Love Letter, and the Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, four of the most sublime works in Vermeer's canon. Interspersed with the text for illustrative, comparative purposes are high quality reproductions of other paintings, many by Vermeer himself, including the best reproduction I have seen of Vermeer's indelible Art of Painting.
Although Westermann uncovers no new ground, she does provide a wider scholarly forum for the compelling research by the London architect, Philip Steadman (do read his Vermeer's Camera) who has demonstrated not only Vermeer's use of the camera obscura but also has built a convincing case for the location of the Little Street (behind the Mechelin, the family inn in Delft). She also captures Vermeer's interest in the philosophy of perception so prevalent in the intellectual milieu of Vermeer's compass, as well as the early scientific efforts (particularly in the nascent field of optics) that accompanied speculation about perception.
Westermann occasionally makes claims she cannot substantiate, such as vouching for Vermeer's actual conversion to the Roman Catholic faith, and suffers a minor lapse by ignoring Vermeer's Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid, a painting in the love letter tradition Vermeer likely made after 1670, a time when Westerman states that the theme "may have been exhausted for ambitious modern painting." She also missed an excellent opportunity to expand on her earlier writings about the importance to Vermeer's art of a concept the Dutch called "houding," a theoretical precept by which painters of Vermeer's era sought to demonstrate their mastery by blending abstract, almost musically harmonious perspective design with convincing illusions of images in space to fool the eye and engage the viewer.
Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) should be appreciated by scholars and neophytes alike, providing as it does so much relevant information about this complex artist with such beauty in highly accessible fashion.