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vermeer the greatest exhibition -the latest from exhibition on screen

Vermeer’s ‘Lacemaker’ at the Louvre
Johannes Vermeer, Girl with the Red Hat, 1664-67, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Johannes Vermeer ‘A Lady Waiting’. National Gallery of Art Washington
Johannes Vermeer, ‘The Astronomer’

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From the Exhibition on Screen team comes their latest luminous, very detailed film, VERMEER THE GREATEST EXHIBITION , directed by David Bickerstaff , produced by Phil Grabsky, looking at the largest Vermeer exhibition in history at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam 10 February – 4 June 2023. The exhibition itself is already completely sold out.

We are guided through the exhibition, which has loans from around the world, by the museum director Taco Dibbits and the curators of the show. We see how the exhibition is laid out and many of his paintings are photographed in extreme closeup and analysed. The exhibition consists of  twenty eight of Vermeer’s thirty five known paintings, three of which are disputed.

Very little is actually known about Johannes Vermeer’s (1632-1675) life. We have no letters, diaries or other extant documents. One of the great Dutch Masters, very highly skilled and with masterly technique, Vermeer lived and worked in Delft. His father was an art dealer and Johannes attended ‘ordinary ‘school but also trained in drawing. His work is best known for his placid, rather restrained indoor scenes, full of glowing detail and attention to textures (sumptuous fabrics and sheeny pearls, for example), his compelling visualisation and creation of atmosphere and his use and portrayal of light.

Vermeer lived in a Protestant country yet was Catholic and close to the Jesuits – hence some of his paintings of saints and Biblical themes. He was always trying to tell a story, to invite the viewer in, capturing a moment in time, almost like photography. His works also concentrate on women’s lives, bringing them to the foreground. We see them doing everyday activities that we still do today.

Vermeer was obsessed with light and reflection and the uneasy border between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. He often used light from a door or window to illuminate his subject. Sometimes sections of his paintings are almost like still life. His work process is analysed – we learn how, in some works, the composition was changed, and also it is wondered did he use a camera obscura for some of his works ?His use of models is also discussed – are some of his works portraying family members? Was Vermeer musical – did he play an instrument?! Observe how many instruments are included in his paintings.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Milkmaid ,The Love Letter, Girl Reading a Letter at the Open Window , A Lady Writing A Letter With her Maid, Woman Holding A Balance ,The Lacemaker, Woman with A Pearl Necklace , The Little Street are just a few of the works featured. The Geographer (1669) is one of the few works Vermeer signed, and also is perhaps unusual as it is, along with The Astronomer, one of the few works that specifically depict men.

Vermeer died in poverty in 1675 – he was very poor because the Dutch economy had collapsed because of the wars. His glorious works survive and make us realise what it is to be human.

EXHIBITION ON SCREEN : VERMEER: THE GREATEST EXHIBITION has a runtime of 90 minutes. For more information visit




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