Jan Vermeer was a Dutch painter who lived from 1632 to 1675.
Not much is known about Vermeer’s early life. He was born and lived his whole life in the busy market town of Delft. As a boy, he probably trained as an apprentice, or assistant, to a professional painter.
In 1653, Vermeer joined a group of painters called a guild. Soon he became the leader of the group. He was young, but the other painters respected him and his work. The people of Vermeer’s town respected his talent, too.
Vermeer did not paint very many pictures. He worked slowly, and he only lived to age 43. Only about thirty of his paintings are known today. Many of these are hanging in famous museums around the world.
Most of Vermeer’s paintings show people going about their daily life in Dutch houses of the time. One of Vermeer’s best-known pictures is a good example. This picture is called The Milkmaid. It shows a serving woman in a kitchen. She is pouring milk from a jug.
Vermeer also put lots of details in his paintings. We can see how people lived at that time by looking at his paintings. Some of his works show the tiles on the floors, richly patterned carpet draped over a table, or the paintings on the walls. Other paintings show tools or musical instruments.
Vermeer is most famous today for his genius in painting light. His paintings usually show bright sunlight shining through a window. The light lands on parts of the people or objects in the paintings, so there is sharp, careful attention to shadow and bright areas.
One of Vermeer’s most famous works is called Girl with a Pearl Earring. It is unusual because it is not a scene of a room full of furnishings. It is a painting of a girl looking over her shoulder at the painter. Most of the girl’s face is very bright. But the background is in dark shadow. The difference between the darkness and light make the painting especially interesting.
Vermeer died in 1675. He was not famous when he was alive. Many years after his death, though, artists began studying Vermeer’s works. Today he is known throughout the world for his great paintings.