Johannes Vermeer was born in 1632 in the Dutch city of Delft where he lived his whole life. His early childhood has not been documented; however, he was the son of a silk worker. It is suspected that at an early age, Vermeer took apprenticeship under a man named LeonartBramer, a local artist. Vermeer created his first painting in 1656called, The Procuress,Oil on Canvas,which appears hanging on the wall in some of his later paintings(Wheelock). In his twenties, Vermeer was wealthy enough to own a large house with an attached inn, he probably sold paintings here. When his father died in 1952, it is assumed that Vermeer inherited his father’s business (National Gallery of Art).
Vermeer was married in 1653 to a woman of the Catholic religion, Catharina Bolenes. It is suggested that Vermeer might have converted to Catholicism in order to marry the young woman. Vermeer was raised as a protestant by his parents as he was baptized in 1632 in the Reformed Church of Delft (Konig). It might have also been a possibility that the parents of the maiden convinced Vermeer to become Catholic in order to marry their daughter to him. A particular painting called, The Allegory of Faith. Oil on Canvas, was a very religious painting made by Vermeer in approximately 1670. Having 14 children by his wife, four of them died at birth(Wheelock).
Vermeer painted approximately 35 paintings his whole career. Most of his paintings were interior style paintings with people portrayed in them. His first paintings were mainly historical paintings. Later on in his life, he produced mostly interiors with just one or two people contained in them, mostly women. Most of these paintings featured either a woman alone by herself completing some sort of everyday task or a very symbolic painting such as Woman Holding a Balance. c. 1664. Oil on Canvas, which will be discussed later. Often the light enters Vermeer's paintings from a window. He was quite a well-organized artist when it came to the way light is depicted as bouncing off of the objects contained within his paintings(National Gallery of Art).
Vermeer became a member of the local guild in 1653; a guild is a sort of club or apprenticeship program for painters in the early modern Europe region. Some of Vermeer’s first works were historical or religious in nature when he first joined the local guild (Wadum). It seems that Vermeer’s style changed a few years after joining the guild into what we now know his works as, interior paintings of figures. Vermeer was highly recognized in Delft as a well-established artist, however, he was sparsely known elsewhere while he was still alive(Scottish National Gallery).
In the final stages of Vermeer’s life, he was heavily in debt. This was probably attributed to the invasion of the Dutch Republic, in which, Delft was located, by the French. This sent the economy into a downward spiral and many people did not have the money or the need to buy art. The lack of sales of his artwork made Vermeer and his wife become heavily indebted. In 1675, probably induced by the rough economic times, Vermeer died and was buried in Delft, he was 43 years old (National Gallery of Art). Vermeer’s wife auctioned off a couple of his paintings after his death in order to pay for the debts that the family owed. Mrs. Vermeer also filed for bankruptcy so that she could recover from the heavy debt burden which was left from her husband. The ending to Vermeer’s life seems like a sad story, however, centuries later his work went recognized globally(Liedtke).
Many of Vermeer’s paintings were not even credited to him until 200 years after his death. A French critic in 1866 declared most of the 35 paintings we know to be created by Vermeer today as his originals. It seems that Vermeer’s paintings never left the small town of Delft until a couple hundred years after his death(Wheelock). Today, one may recognize...