Vermeer: Art, Life and Technique

Vermeer’s paintings are almost instantly recognisable and the artist has come to stand in for a whole epoch in western history. Yet very few of his works have survived – perhaps as few as 34. In this course we explore Vermeer’s work in depth, exploring their context, the materials he used, his techniques and his playful approach to his subject matter. Each week begins with a pre-recorded 1-hour lecture, and is followed up with a 1-hour small group discussion class on Zoom where we look in detail at Vermeer’s masterpieces.


This class will be delivered online via the online platform Zoom. Enrolling students need to ensure they have an email, a reliable internet connection, microphone/speakers and access to a tablet, smartphone or computer.


SUGGESTED READING


COURSE OUTLINE

  • Vermeer and the Dutch Golden Age: Vermeer was very much a product of his times, and exploring the context of Vermeer’s work helps explain much about his success and failure. Understanding his context as an artist also helps us know how a ‘Vermeer’ is indetified – what is it about his materials and techniques that helps us identify his work?
  • Vermeer and technology: It’s long been debated if Vermeer used a camera obscura or not. We take a close look at Vermeer’s relationship to technology, and what evidence there is (or isn’t) of his use of technology to compose his paintings.
  • Vermeer’s genre scenes: Vermeer seems to give us a window onto daily life in Delft in the 17th century, but Vermeer was one of many painters in this period depicting daily life. How realistic are these works – was it actual daily life being shown or a new ideal of the domestic world Vermeer and his contemporaries captured?
  • The other Vermeer’s: When we think of Vermeer, we often remember his genre scenes and cityscapes. Vermeer, however, was a painter who worked across genres and in this session we look at his other, less well-known works, such as his religious paintings.


PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Describe what made art and life in the Dutch Golden Age so different from earlier periods in history
  2. Identify what makes Vermeer’s masterpieces so identifiable
  3. Analyse Vermeer’s paintings in context
  4. Discuss Vermeer’s art in relationship to his culture.
  5. Discuss Golden Age Dutch painting.

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