Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime. He seems never to have been particularly wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings.
For a long time, relatively little was known about Vermeer's life. He seems to have been devoted exclusively to his art, living out his life in the city of Delft. It is unclear where and to whom Vermeer was apprenticed as a painter. Speculation are that Carel Fabritius may have been his teacher. Vermeer's wife gave birth to 15 children, four of whom were buried before being baptized.
On 29 December 1653, Vermeer became a member of the Guild of Saint Luke, a trade association for painters. Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, using bright colours and sometimes expensive pigments, with a preference for lapis lazuli and Indian yellow. He is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work.
Recognized during his lifetime in Delft and The Hague, his modest celebrity gave way to obscurity after his death; he was barely mentioned in Arnold Houbraken's major source book on 17th-century Dutch painting (Grand Theatre of Dutch Painters and Women Artists), and was thus omitted from subsequent surveys of Dutch art for nearly two centuries.
In the 19th century, Vermeer was rediscovered by Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Théophile Thoré-Bürger, who published an essay attributing sixty-six pictures to him, although only thirty-four paintings are universally attributed to him today. The first painting that German museum director Gustav Waagen saw was in the Czernin gallery in Vienna, he recognized as a Vermeer the work which was at that time attributed to Pieter de Hooch. Since that time, Vermeer's reputation has grown, and he is now acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age.
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