Delft: The city of Vermeer

Author: gwendoline  |  Category: Painting Trips
Johannes Vermeer – a man they know very little about. How many children he had, where he lived, where his father lived, but nothing of who he was, his thoughts or temperment. No letters, nor documents written by him are available, maybe they didn’t survive or never existed.

The most people get a glimpse of this artist is through his paintings, intepretating his choice of subjects and what they may represent. 

He and his wife lived with her mother and were financially supplemented by his mother-in-law. He and his wife had 15 children.

They say Johannes Vemeer was a master of light. Study his work and you will discover how he made the light fall in many ways.

He reflected light through objects in the interiors he painted, letting it shine softly through curtains, or become broken through different kinds of glass. It even finds its way through holes in windows, or it gleams through the caps that the women wear. The ways of light are cunning and Vermeer practiced the use of them all.

With the use of light in Vermeers paintings, he masterly directs the viewers’ gaze through the painting, like a guide, this is what it’s about, that’s of less importance. The light often comes from the left hand side, as if it takes our reading direction into account, though not always.

Vermeer renders the buildings and interiors exquisitely, convincing viewers of the textures he portrays. He added sand into his paint to create texture in the brickwork. His palette consisted of approximately seven colours. The perspective in his work is excellent and technically correct. In most of his paintings, he adds more perspective by often placing a table between the viewer and the model. This layering of objects helps create the illusion of more depth.

Visiting his city of Delft, the cobblestoned alleyways, narrow canals (with graceful white swans and waterlillies) and facades of the 17th century buildings are an inspiration. The unusually small narrow bricks, grouted with white, the interesting shutters on windows and some lovely doorways make fabulous subjects. Little bridges across the canals are also eye catching. This old city is an artists’ feast.



Rembrandt's House

Author: gwendoline  |  Category: Exhibitions
Stepping back in time during a recent visit to Rembrandt’s house was an exhilarating experience.
From the street, the house is a typical 17th century dutch terrace, with little green shutters on the outside of the windows and a green entrance door.
Rembrandt bought this house in 1639 when he was at the height of his fame, with many commissions and pupils. He was not a thrifty person, nor a businessman and accumulated alot of debts, hence he went bankrupt in 1656.

Everything of value in his house was sold at auction, including objects of rarity and art works. An inventory from the auction that has survived has allowed the house to be furnished again as it was in Rembrandts’ time.

Upstairs there is a near complete collection of Rembrandts etchings.

Rembrandt loved to collect objects of nature – seashells, corals, antlers, turtle shells, native implements such as spears, shields, a sword from a swordfish, stuffed animals, feathers and also a huge collection of plaster busts. All of these he drew and asked his pupils to draw things of nature, as he believed nature presented all that an artist needed to learn.

Something to note of interest: all of Rembrants sitters had the light fall over their left shoulder.

His studio is quite large and has a tall A frame easel. The canvas is stretched by cord stitched onto a wooden frame. Only a small amount of paint was prepared for the days’ painting, and was ground with linseed oil.

The etching press was simple with a weighty barrel and a wheel which could be operated by hand or foot. For the etching, Rembrandt used a separate room. A line pegged with sample etchings is strung across the ceiling.

There are some beautiful appointments throughout the house, marble fireplaces and an arch doorway, a collection of other artists’ paintings on the walls, as well as a couple of little original Rembrandts. The beds are like wardrobes. People of the 17th century were quite short, and they also slept sitting half upright, because they thought it was better for them medically.

Sometimes it’s good to revisit great master painters, even if you intend to reinvent it all!

Going back to the basics is always rewarding in ones work.