Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands’ national museum of art and history, will open a new Johannes Vermeer exhibition on February 10. What makes the news so extraordinary is the scope of the exhibit.
The 17th-century Dutch master is believed to have painted 37 works. The new comprehensive exhibit will feature 28 of those works. What’s more remarkable is that many of the paintings are on loan from museums in seven other countries.
Amazingly, seven of the 28 paintings have not been seen in the Netherlands in more than 200 years.
“Vermeer did not produce many paintings,” Taco Dibbits, general director of the Rijksmuseum, said in a statement. “Their impact, however, is unforgettable. In a world making constant demands upon us, the calm and intimacy of his work bring time to a standstill. We are grateful to all the museums and private collections for their generosity, and for making this extraordinary exhibition possible.”
The exhibition, simply called Vermeer, opens February 10 and runs until June 4, 2023.
Who Was Vermeer?
Interestingly, Vermeer was born in Delft, Netherlands, and lived there until he died in 1675. Since his father was an art dealer, Vermeer grew up around art.
“His early aspiration was to be a history painter, and his first works were large-scale mythological and religious paintings,” according to the National Gallery of Art. “Shortly thereafter, he began to paint the genre scenes, landscapes, and allegories for which he became so renowned. Although Vermeer’s subject matter changed in the mid-1650s, he nevertheless continued to imbue his later works with the quiet, intimate moods he had preferred in his early history paintings.”
Vermeer’s work is recognizable due to his use of light and bold colors. Indeed, the light in his paintings often seems to come from a window on the left side of the canvas — illuminating his subject.
A Comprehensive Exhibit
A comprehensive exhibit hasn’t seemed possible for decades because much of Vermeer’s work is in private collections. Other pieces are considered by the museums housing them to be the “absolute pinnacle of their collection,” so they are rarely loaned, the Rijksmuseum explains.
However, since the museum housing the Frick Collection in New York is undergoing restoration, the Frick Collection has loaned Mistress and Maid; Girl, Interrupted at Her Music; and Officer and Laughing Girl to Rijksmuseum. That, in turn, led to other museums loaning their Vermeer paintings.
For instance, the recently restored Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window is on loan from the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden and The Glass of Wine is on loan from the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. Other highlights include the world-famous Girl with a Pearl Earring from the Mauritshuis in The Hague, The Lacemaker from the Louvre in Paris, and Woman Holding a Balance from The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
In addition to the paintings, the exhibit will help attendees better understand Vermeer by offering “rich insights into the life and paintings of Vermeer, including his early ambitions, first domestic interiors, balance between the indoor and outdoor worlds, the letters, musical seduction, outlook on the world, and inner values,” the Rijksmuseum explains.
“We’re really coming closer to Vermeer than we’ve ever been,” said Pieter Roelofs, Rijksmuseum’s head of paintings and sculptures, according to the Associated Press. “Recent research means that we really understand more about his life, about his household, about his direct contacts, the people for whom he made these paintings, and what they mean.”
How To See Vermeer
Vermeer will be on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam from February 10 to June 4, 2023. Tickets, which cost 30 euros (about $32) can be purchased from Rijksmuseum online.
It won’t quite be the same, but there’s another way to see the exhibit if you can’t travel to Amsterdam. Rijksmuseum also has a digital show called Closer to Johannes Vermeer that you can watch at home to learn more about Vermeer and explore his paintings.
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