Johannes Vermeer

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The Milkmaid (c. 1658)

Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer (1632 – December 1675) was a Dutch painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life.

Quotes about Johannes Vermeer[edit]

  • Delacroix spoke of the Greek coin being built from the center out. Vermeer has painted in this way, according to the principles of mass.. ..How beautifully they are drawn – Vermeer does not just make a leaf and place it in the design, he relates space and leaf. [on the painting of Vermeer ‘Allegory on the New Testament]. That drapery – it is abstract – observe how this shape [a space between a shepherd and the tree] curves around the center space while the tree counter-curves opposite it, cutting an egg shape.. ..the spaces on the carpet that carry no figuration are, in fact, shapes of vital importance in building the whole…
    • Arshile Gorky in: 'A visit to the Metropolitan Museum with Gorky', Ethel Schwabacher, 1947; as quoted in "Arshile Gorky, – Goats on the roof", ed. by Matthew Spender, Ridinghouse, London 2009, p. 357.
  • Yes, Johannes Vermeer paints in thin layers – there is no waste effort – and those small dots – no, they are not like Seurat’s, though they contain all the light the pointillist may have wished for, concentrated, hovering before the object, but not obliterating it.. ..Vermeer is not a sun painter, but rather a moon-painter – like Uccello – that’s good, it is the pure, final stage of art, the moment when it becomes more real than reality.
    • Arshile Gorky in: 'A visit to the Metropolitan Museum with Gorky', Ethel Schwabacher, 1947; as quoted in "Arshile Gorky, – Goats on the roof", ed. by Matthew Spender, Ridinghouse, London 2009, pp. 357-58.
  • Great art, for those who insist upon this rather philistine concept (as if un-great art were unworthy of even their most casual and ill-informed attention), makes us stand back and admire. It rushes upon us pell-mell like the work of Rubens or Tintoretto or Delacroix, or towers above us. There is of course another aesthetic: the art of a Vermeer or a Braque seeks not to amaze and appal but to invite the observer to come closer, to close with the painting, peer into it, become intimate with it. Such art reinforces human dignity.
    • Germaine Greer. The Obstacle Race (1979) Chapter V: Dimension, p. 105.
  • By art alone we are able to get outside ourselves, to know what another sees of this universe which for him is not ours, the landscapes of which would remain as unknown to us as those of the moon. Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world, our own, we see it multiplied and as many original artists as there are, so many worlds are at our disposal, differing more widely from each other than those which roll round the infinite and which, whether their name be Rembrandt or Vermeer, send us their unique rays many centuries after the hearth from which they emanate is extinguished.

    This labour of the artist to discover a means of apprehending beneath matter and experience, beneath words, something different from their appearance, is of an exactly contrary nature to the operation in which pride, passion, intelligence and habit are constantly engaged within us when we spend our lives without self-communion, accumulating as though to hide our true impressions, the terminology for practical ends which we falsely call life.

  • Let us look at a Dutch interior and at an interior painted by an artist of the present day. The latter no longer touches us, because it does not possess the qualities of depth and volume, the science of distances. The artist who paints it does not know how to reproduce a cube. An interior by Van der Meer is a cubic painting. The atmosphere is in it and the exact volume of the objects ; the place of these objects has been respected, the modem painter places them, arranges them as models. The Dutchmen did not touch them, but set themselves to render the distances that separated them, that is, the depth. And then, if I go so far as to say that cubic truth, not appearance, is the mistress of things, if I add that the sight of the plains and woods and country views gives me the principle of the plans that I employ on my statues, that I feel cubic truth everywhere, and that plan and volume appear to me as laws of all life and ail beauty, will it be said that I am a symbolist, that I generalise, that I am a metaphysician ? It seems to me that I have remained a sculptor and a realist. Unity oppresses and haunts me.
  • 'Europe' in anything other than the geographical sense is a wholly artificial construct. It makes no sense at all to lump together Beethoven and Debussy, Voltaire and Burke, Vermeer and Picasso, Notre Dame and St Paul's, boiled beef and bouillabaisse, and portray them as elements of a 'European' musical, philosophical, artistic, architectural or gastronomic reality. If Europe charms us, as it has so often charmed me, it is precisely because of its contrasts and contradictions, not its coherence and continuity.

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