Details of Vermeer's Painting Technique

The richness of Vermeer's artistic evolution was accompanied by an equally rich evolution in painting technique. A single detail of each Vermeer painting is examined from a technical point of view and related to the artist's expressive intent.

By clicking on the title of the painting to access a brief discussion of a particular aspect of Vermeer's painting technique and relative image.

The Music Lesson (detail, Johannes Vermeer
The Music Lesson (detail of carpet)
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1662-1664
Oil on canvas, 73.3 x 64.5 cm.
The Royal Collection, The Windsor Castle


Diana and her Companions, Johannes Vermeer
Diana and her Companions
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1653 - 1656
Oil on canvas, 98.5 x 105 cm.
Mauritshuis, The Hague

Vermeer's first steps display technical uncertainties.

The Procuress, Johannes Vermeer
The Procuress
Johannes Vermeer
1656
Oil on canvas, 143 x 130 cm.
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden

Vermeer's used unconventional tools to realize his mimetic images.

Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window, Johannes Vermeer
A Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1657 - 1659
Oil on canvas, 83 x 64.5 cm.
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden

Extensive use of impasto in Vermeer's early painting to achieve unique pictorial effects.

Officer and Laughing Girl, Johannes Vermeer
Officer and Laughing Girl
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1655-1660
Oil on canvas, 50.5 x 46 cm.
Frick Collection, New York

Vermeer and the white-washed background wall.

The Music Lesson, Johannes Vermeer
The Music Lesson
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1662-1664
Oil on canvas, 73.3 x 64.5 cm.
The Royal Collection, The Windsor Castle

Vermeer's use of the costly pigment lapis lazuli instead of the much cheaper azurite was exceptional.

Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, Johannes Vermeer
Woman in Blue Reading a Letter
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1662 - 1665
Oil on canvas, 46.5 x 39 cm.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Vermeer's use of the badger brush.

Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, Johannes Vermeer
Woman in Blue Reading a Letter
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1662 - 1665
Oil on canvas, 46.5 x 39 cm.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The subtly of Vermeer's white-washed background walls.

Woman with a Water Pitcher, Johannes Vermeer
Young Woman with a Water Pitcher
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1662 - 1665
Oil on canvas, 45.7 x 40.6 cm.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Vermeer's use of the costly pigment lapis lazuli instead of the much cheaper azurite was exceptional
.
A Lady Writing, Johannes Vermeer
.
A Lady Writing
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1665-1666
Oil on canvas, 45 x 39.9 cm.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Color or pigment?
Girl with a Red Hat, Johannes Vermeer
Girl with a Red Hat
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1665-1667
Oil on panel, 23.2 x 18.1 cm.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Vermeer even used the tip of the brush's handle in his painting.

The Art of Painting, Johannes Vermeer
The Art of Painting
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1662 - 1668
Oil on canvas, 120 X 100 cm.
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Glazing was used to create colors and pictorial effects which cannot be obtained by direct mixture of paint.

The Lacemaker, Johannes Vermeer
The Lacemaker
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1669-1671
Oil on canvas on panel, 24.5 x 21 cm.
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Vermeer's use of the camera obscura.

The Lacemaker, Johannes Vermeer
The Lacemaker
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1669-1671
Oil on canvas on panel, 24.5 x 21 cm.
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Vermeer's use focus.

Guitar Player, Johannes Vermeer
The Guitar Player
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1670-1672
Oil on canvas, 53 x 46.3 cm.
Iveagh Bequest, London

In some of his later paintings Vermeer used green earth in the shadows of flesh tones.

A Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid, Johannes Vermeer
Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1670-1671
Oil on canvas, 71.1 x 58.4 cm.
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

In Vermeer's late paintings his artistic concerns became less descriptive and more abstract.

A lady Seated at a Virginal, Johannes Vermeer
A Lady Seated at a Virginal
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1670-1675
Oil on canvas, 51.5 x 45.5 cm.
National Gallery, London

Vermeer's late paintings hold many technical surprises, one of the most daring is freely calligraphic brushwork seen in the rendering of the marbled virginal.
Lady Standing at a Virginal, Johannes Vermeer
A Lady Standing at a Virginal
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1670-1673
Oil on canvas, 51.7 x 45.2 cm.
National Gallery, London

Vermeer and "nonsemantic" marks.
Lady Standing at a Virginal, Johannes Vermeer
A Lady Standing at a Virginal
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1670-1673
Oil on canvas, 51.7 x 45.2 cm.
National Gallery, London

Vermeer's paints pearl necklace in a very original manner.
Looking Over Vermeer's Shoulder
The complete book on the technique and studio practices of Johannes Vermeer
2nd edition
eBook (ePub)
+300 color illus.
Jan. 2016

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