Johannes Vermeer Exhibition

Yesterday, I had the honor of checking out the Johannes Vermeer exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam! What makes this particular one special is that it’s a collection of around 35 of his paintings exhibited all over the world and possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity to have them gathered in one place. Apparently, all of the 450,000 tickets sold out quickly for this four-month exhibition, 200,000 of them sold even before opening date! A few of us, however, were able to grab the chance, since a friend of mine had originally bought them for her family but due to illness family could not attend so we were offered to step in!

Who is Vermeer?

Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) is a Dutch painter based in Delft. A Baroque Period artist, he focussed on the domestic interior scenes of middle-class life in his hometown as well the Hague. More well-known locally, he never ventured abroad which makes it all the more interesting that his artwork is now famously exhibited worldwide and gathered during this special exhibition, attracting visitors from all over the world! Most impressive about his artwork is his amazing illustration of light in his paintings, almost as perfect as a photograph. Needing to work slowly and precisely for that purpose, he has produced relatively few paintings, a good example quality over quantity. Vermeer painted with expensive pigments which indeed reflects in his artwork, but he was a man of modest means and sadly left his wife and kids in debt upon his death. He only became well-known when discovered in the 19th Century.

His Famous Works

When discovered in the 19th Century, an essay was written about him attributing 66 of his paintings, but 34 of them are what made him famous. His posthumous reputation has grown since and now he is known as one of the greatest Dutch painters of the Golden Age. The “Girl with the Pearl Earrings” and “The Milkmaid” are among them. Unfortunately, the “Girl with the Pearl Earrings” was returned to the original museum in the Hague before we had the chance to see it yesterday. Disappointing, but perhaps this would be a great opportunity to go visit that museum soon! The “Milkmaid” the bottom right in the photo below was indeed displayed, and how beautiful that was! Rich pigments were used for this painting as will be explained below.

Vermeer’s Art Mediums

In those days the medium of choice was oil paint of course but what makes his work amazing was his choice of rich pigments. His famous “The Milkmaid” we see a vivid Ultramarine Blue which is derived from natural stone Lapis Lazuli. Lead Tin Yellow was used for “A Lady Writing Letter” In Vermeer’s work, it appears only about 20 pigments have been detected and of these, seven principal pigments that Vermeer commonly used were lead white, yellow ochre, vermilion, madder lake, green earth, raw umber, and ivory or bone black. All very expensive indeed but he continued employing them even when falling under hard times.

Exhibition Experience

As the limited tickets were sold on a first-come first served basis and booked on a time slot on a specific date of choice when purchasing, it was quite a pleasant atmosphere. It was of course quite busy but not crazy crowded, and we were able to walk around and enjoy at our own pace and leisure. Photos were also allowed and we were able to get some beautiful snapshots in close range although there was a chained barrier so the paintings don’t get touched or damaged. Visitors were very civil to one another and considerate, giving way and taking turns to view. As you can see, we managed to take some photos, and here I made a compiled a collage for this blog. There may be some overlapping because I took so many pictures and lost track on what I had included. Nevertheless, we have some idea about his work. The only disappointment was that the famous “Girl with the Pearl Earrings” had been returned to the museum in The Hague before we had the chance to visit the museum. However, that did not ruin the experience, and I would very much like to check that painting out separately soon!

All in all, a wonderful day out at this special exhibition. So many beautiful artwork by this amazing artist. HIs use of light and the way he paints glass were what impressed me the most. I often wonder what life would have been like for him had he been discovered earlier before passing away in poverty. On a personal scale, the best part was being able see my friend again and being able to bring my boyfriend’s mother along to see as she loves art galleries. She couldn’t believe her ears when we told her about this! And many thanks to my friend, Corrina, for arranging the tickets for this wonderful event!

And here a little information about “The Milkmaid”… who would’ve known!

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