A Five Part Study plus a brief overview of is technique and stylistic evolution and a few considerations on the techniques of the old masters. Oil on canvas, 120 X 100 cm. It is not an easy chore to reconstruct with any degree of precision how Vermeer painted. What we now know of seventeenth-century Dutch painting methods is based largely on information gleaned from painting techniques for school-age children painting manuals integrated with the results of modern scientific analysis.
Period painting manuals were more apt to discuss theoretic issues of the noble art of painting rather than the practical side of painting. Although Vermeer experimented ceaselessly with techniques to create the illusion of three-dimension space render the effects of natural light, evidence points to the fact that he worked largely within the boundaries of traditional studio methods of Northern European artists. These methods were very different than those used by artists today. Modern painters usually execute their works a unified whole. They work while standing so they can walk back and envision the totality of the work. Instead, seventeenth-century painters proceeded according to a fixed mulit-step method that they had assimilated in a master’s studio. The workload was divided into distinct phases in order to deal with the principal pictorial components one at a time.
The rationale behind this division of labor was based on both technical and economical motives. Almost all representations of artists at work showed them at work seated holding small palettes. Pigments, the actual coloring agents of paint, were very few when compared to those available to any modern painter, and usually had to be hand ground each day before setting out to work. Moreover, some pigments were not mutually compatible and had to be used separately. Inventing corresponds to the modern idea of an initial drawing on the untouched canvas, dead-coloring to underpainting and working-up to the application of color and detail. Each stage, along the preparation of the painting’s support, is discussed in depth on separate pages, which can be accessed below. Glazing, a separate but indispensable technique, is analyzed by itself.
English translation, 1817 in WORD format. 1 In these works, thickly applied impasto paint is characteristic. Genre subject matter had already been pioneered by other painters such as Pieter de Hooch, Gerrit ter Borch and Nicolas Metsu. The brilliant tones needed to suggest the intensity of incoming daylight, which had quickly become one of Vermeer’s principal artistic preoccupations, were generally composed of two or three pigments. The famous pointillès, or globular dots of thick light colored paint that represent specular highlights, make their first appearance.
These and other visual peculiarities found in these works indicate that Vermeer had begun to employ the camera obscura, a precursor to the modern photographic camera. The camera obscura is ideal for studying the natural play of light. From the outset of his career, Vermeer made numerous changes during the painting process as he sought a satisfactory image: he eliminated figures, altered costumes, adjusted shapes of buildings in his land and cityscapes and reconsidered the placement and scale of objects in his interiors. Vermeer generally painted on light colored grounds as did many Dutch painters. Maturity: Works of the 1660s In the early 1660s the surface of Vermeer’s paintings have an almost levigated effect.