Author(s): Walter Liedtke
Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) has been one of the most widely admired European painters since his so-called rediscovery in the second half of the nineteenth century. Until quite recently, the Romantic roots of writing on the Sphinx of Delft have encouraged the image of him as an isolated genius; the artists private life and religion, his supposed use of a camera obscura, and the fact that his teacher has not been identified have all contributed to an air of mystery. As this new monograph demonstrates, Vermeers life is actually well documented and his work may be more appropriately understood by placing the painter in the context of the Delft school as a whole and of Delft society. The fact that one local patron acquired about twenty pictures by the artist (only thirty-six are known today) must have been significant for Vermeers subtleties of meaning and refinements of technique and style. In the end, however, the most historical approach to "Vermeer" still leaves us with a master whose rare sensibility and extraordinary powers of observation may be described but not explained.