Vermeer Paintbrush And Paints

Vermeer 's methods of applying paint were among the most inventive of any 17th-century Dutch artist. The deliberation of his painting practice indicates his persistent search for the most effective way of translating into paint the light effects he observed. Silver Brush Monza® Synthetic Mongoose Brush Set blending brush. A must for every artists’ paint box. Short length for precise control. Holds sharp edges and fine points. Superior spring, bounce and durability. Ideal for oil, acrylic and water-soluble oils. Durable natural fibers will be resilient for years to come Twelve Brush Set. Vermeer, as many painters of his time, employed a very limited palette. The only substantial difference in his palette in respects to those of his contemporaries was the extensive use of natural ultramarine (pure lapis lazuli) rather than the much cheaper azurite.

  • In A Lady Writing (fig. 7), Vermeer textured his underpaint by using granular pigments and leaving brush-marked paint. Comparatively, rough underpaint may seem surprising in an artist known for subtle technique, but Vermeer used this to further his exceptional characterization of light.
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Look For Vermeer's Paint Brushes

Origin, History and Characteristics

(oltremare, lapis lazuli)

Related topicsVermeer's working methods

Vermeer, as many painters of his time, employed a very limited palette. The only substantial difference in his palette in respects to those of his contemporaries was the extensive use of natural ultramarine (pure lapis lazuli) rather than the much cheaper azurite.

Natural ultramarine is made of the powder of the crushed semi-precious stone lapis lazuli which, after being thoroughly purified by repeated washings, is bonded to a drying oil through hand mulling. The exact proportions between pigment (powdered lapis lazuli) and vehicle (natural drying oil) and correct amount of hand mulling necessary to produce the highest quality paint can be only acquired by experience. Even when the process is mastered the resulting paint has a very fastidious stringy quality which makes it difficult to brush out evenly. However, mixed with white this defect is less noticeable. The final product is a very deep transparent blue. Set aside other pigments on the artist's palette, it is one of the darkest, only black is darker. Mixed with lead white, it maintains its radiant purity and brilliance even in the palest shades. The superior cost, complicated preparation and poor brushing qualities of natural ultramarine are offset by the exceptional brilliance and purity of the final product. Genuine ultramarine made of lapis lazuli is no longer produced and has been replaced by synthetically produced ultramarine blue.

Most painters used natural ultramarine economically in thin glazes over an opaque underpainting rather than in body color.

LOOKING OVER VERMEER'S SHOULDER

Vermeer Paintbrush And Paints

The complete book about seventeenth-century painting techniques, studio practices and materials, with particular focus on the work of Johannes Vermeer.

2020 PDF 3 volumes 294 pages

Looking Over Vermeer's Shoulder is a comprehensive study of the materials and painting techniques that made Vermeer one of the greatest masters of European art. In order to form the clearest picture of his day-to-day methods we must not only look at what went on inside Vermeer's studio, but what went on inside the studios of his most accomplished colleagues as well.

Looking Over Vermeer's Shoulder, then, lays out in comprehensible language every facet of 17th-century painting practices including topics such as artistic training, canvas preparation, underdrawing, underpainting, glazing, palette, brushes, pigments and composition. Also investigated are a number of issues as they relate specifically to the art of Vermeer such as the camera obscura, studio organization as well as how he depicted wall-maps, floor tiles, pictures-within-pictures, Turkish carpets and other of his most characteristic motifs.

Bolstered by his qualifications as a Vermeer connoisseur and practicing painter, the three-volume PDF format permits the author to address each of the book's 24 topics with requisite attention. By observing at close quarters the studio practices of Vermeer and his preeminent contemporaries the reader will acquire a concrete understanding of 17th-century painting methods and gain a fresh view of Vermeer's 35 works of art, which reveal a seamless unity of craft and poetry.

While not written as a 'how-to' manual, aspiring realist painters will find a true treasure trove of technical information that can be apdapted to almost any style of figurative painting.

Looking Over Vermeer's Shoulder (beta version)
author: Jonathan Janson
date: 2020 (second edition)
pages: 294
format: PDF 3 volumes
illustrations: 200-plus illustrations and diagrams

3 Volumes: $29.95

All three volumes can be purchased individually below.

VOL I (11MB) $11.99

1 / Vermeer's Training, Technical Background and Ambitions
2 / An Overview of Vermeer’s Technical & Stylistic Evolution
3 / Fame, Originality & Subject Matter
4 / Reality or Illusion: Did Vermeer’s Interiors ever Exist?
5 / Color
6 / Composition
7 / Mimesi & Illusionism

VOL II (17MB) $11.99

8 / Perspective
9 / Camera Obscura Vision
10 / Light & Modeling
11 / Studio
12 / Four Essential Motifs in Vermeer’s Oeuvre
13 / Drapery
14 / Painting Flesh

VOL III (13MB) $11.99

15 / Canvas
16 / Grounding
17 / “Inventing,” or Underdrawing
18 / “Dead-Coloring,” or Underpainting
19 / “Working-up,” or Finishing
20 / Glazing
21 / Mediums, Binders & Varnishes
22 / Paint Application & Consistency
23 / Pigments, Paints & Palettes
24 / Brushes & Brushwork

* please note:
Looking Over Vermeer's Shoulder has not undergone a final copy edit, so minor errors in grammar, footnotation and image captions may be occasionally encountered. As soon as the final copy edit becomes available the purchaser will be notified and, on request, receive it without delay or charge.

Natural Ultramarine in Vermeer's Painting

Vermeer paintbrush and paints near me

The use of natural ultramarine in Vermeer's painting could easily constitute a study in itself. Although genuine ultramarine can be found in almost every painting by Vermeer, it is truly surprising to what extent Vermeer actually employed the pigment. Not only is it found in blue colored objects themselves but upon close inspection traces can be found in the shaded portions of white drapery, ceramic jugs (fig. 1), black marble tiles, green foliage, white washed walls and even in the shadows of the brilliant orange gown in The Glass of Wine. A fine example of genuine ultramarine can be seen in the satin gown of Woman in Blue Reading a Letter(fig. 2), although it is now less brilliant today due to aging of the varnish. The gem-like depth of the wrap (fig. 3) in The Milkmaidis another. In this case, the excellent state of conservation of the painting allows us to appreciate in full the chromatic brilliance of pure lapis lazuli.

fig. 1The Girl with a Wine Glass (detail)
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1659–1662
Oil on canvas, 78 x 67 cm.
Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Brunswick
fig. 2Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (detail)
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1662–1665
Oil on canvas, 46.5 x 39 cm.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
fig. 3The Milkmaid (detail)
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1658–1661
Oil on canvas, 45.5 x 41 cm.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Vermeer

'In The Music Lesson, ultramarine was used for the shadow in the flesh tones of the male figure. It is also found combined in mixtures to produce a range of other colors: for example ultramarine has been mixed with red lake to form an array of purples such as the leaded lights, tablecloth pattern, man's sash and for shading the wall on the left. Most extraordinary, however is that the costly mineral blue pigment was used to produce the mixed brown of the ceiling beams, with the likely aim of achieving an integrated coloristic harmony.'1

Vermeer Paintbrush And Paints

The ultramarine-containing paint used by Vermeer has sometimes blanched with time resulting in a generally paler color than it would have been originally in a number of areas, for example in the design of the tiles in The Lady Seated at a Virginal(fig. 4). The darkening of the binding medium and additional components present in the paint layers of the curtain and tablecloth in The Guitar Player make it difficult to be sure whether a dark purple-blue or blue-green color was originally intended for these fields of color.2

fig. 4A Lady Seated at a Virginal (detail)
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1670–1675
Oil on canvas, 51.5 x 45.5 cm.
National Gallery, London

Vermeer's copious use of natural ultramarine seems to have reached an almost obsessive degree unless we understand just how perceptive was the artist's eye. Vermeer realized early in his career that the admixture of genuine ultramarine with tones of gray, usually composed of lead white, bone black and raw umber in varying proportions, lends them a characteristic luminosity produced by intense daylight which cannot be produced otherwise. This technique is to found only in Vermeer's paintings. Mixtures of blue in the shadows was to be employed many years later by the French impressionists to suggest the effect of full daylight.

Another example of Vermeer's extensive use of natural ultramarine can be found in Young Woman with a Water Pitcher. Obviously, it was used to paint the folded blue drapery on the table, in a more or less conventional way. It was also used in the window to render the incoming daylight which passes through the glass pains. Vermeer applied delicate opaque and semi-transparent layers of natural ultramarine mixed with white lead in varying proportions over the warm tone of the canvas preparation which in places can still be observed in order to register the varying degrees of intensity of light as it plays on and through the surface of the uneven glass. Observed with care, we can see that even the lead molding has been painted with lapis lazuli, this time Vermeer brushed genuine ultramarine mixed with only a very small quantity of white over the darker underpainting. The contrast between the bluish overtone of the glass and the warm toned sunlight portion of the window frame is absolutely natural. The head dress worn by the young woman was first modeled in shades of white and neutral gray. Once dry, Vermeer superimposed the pale shades of genuine ultramarine to render the candid transparency of the starched clothe inundated by sunlight. Natural ultramarine is even found in the light gray paint of the background wall.

fig. 5A Lady Seated at a Virginal (detail)
Johannes Vermeer
c. 1670–1675
Oil on canvas, 51.5 x 45.5 cm.
National Gallery, London

Shadows of white objects are particularly difficult to integrate into the overall tonality of a painting. Dutch painters invariably used mixtures of black or raw umber to render the shadows of white objects and to deepen tones of local color as well. While this technique maintains an chromatic unity within the painting, it fails to suggest the freshness of natural daylight that Vermeer strove to capture.

Recent examination of the Lady Seated at a Virginal3 has revealed that Vermeer combined precious ultramarine with the rather mundane green earth, a flat green pigment, to form a range of blue-greens for the lady's dress (fig. 5). Mixtures of ultramarine and green earth were also applied over an underpaint of green earth combined with black for the patterned curtain in this painting.

Look For Vermeer's Paintbrush And Paints

† FOOTNOTES †

  1. Helen Howard, David Peggie and Rachel Billinge, Helen Howard, David Peggie and Rachel Billinge, 'Pigments,' Vermeer's Palette, National Gallery website. http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/research/meaning-of-making/vermeer-and-technique/vermeers-palette#yellowlake
  2. Helen Howard, David Peggie and Rachel Billinge, 'Pigments,' Vermeer's Palette, National Gallery website. http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/research/meaning-of-making/vermeer-and-technique/vermeers-palette#yellowlake
  3. Helen Howard, David Peggie and Rachel Billinge, 'Pigments,' Vermeer's Palette, National Gallery website. http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/research/meaning-of-making/vermeer-and-technique/vermeers-palette#yellowlake

Film review: The Last Vermeer, directed by Dan Friedkin.

Among the thousands of plundered treasures discovered in May 1945 by the Allies was an undocumented picture supposedly by Johannes Vermeer, a masterpiece titled Christ and the Adulteress.

Held in the personal collection of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, no one knew anything about it. Where had it come from? How did Göring get his hands on it?

The Last Vermeer — the first directorial outing for billionaire Dan Friedkin — recounts the fascinating story of the painting’s discovery, and exposure as a fake.

In the process, Friedkin turns a spotlight onto the art market, questioning why some artworks are worth millions and others only a few hundred dollars, and querying who makes these decisions.

Early in the film, our hero, the infamous Dutch art forger Han van Meegeren (played with flair by Guy Pearce), suggests the problem facing the film’s protagonist Captain Joseph Piller (played woodenly by Claes Bang) is not one of art. Instead, Piller should be “investigating money and power”.

From the rollicking beginning, it seems Friedkin intends to investigate just that, but after about 15 minutes, the wheels fall off. For the next hour, we lose track of the central narrative until suddenly (and unconvincingly) we arrive at the 1945 trial in which van Meegeren is accused of treason for selling national treasures to the Nazis.

Vermeer equipment paint

Forgery as revenge

Born in 1889, the unsuccessful artist-turned-art-dealer van Meegeren was a charlatan, talented painter, bon vivant, opportunist, satirist, critic and — eventually — national hero.

Sadly, The Last Vermeer does not explore the complete and detailed narrative of this forger, the Nazi, and the art market. Instead, the film introduces a cohort of characters that confuse rather than clarify, changing and ignoring critical details of the story.

As we discover in the film, van Meegeren’s early career was impacted by negative reviews from his first solo exhibition in 1917.

To win back his self-esteem (and make himself absurdly wealthy) he began forging artworks.

One expert, art historian and curator Dr Abraham Bredius found fault with an early attempt and pronounced it a fake, instantly becoming the target for van Meergeren’s revenge.

Paints

To convince the world of his true genius, van Meegeren painted forgeries to fulfil Bredius’ theory that the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer had been influenced by Italian painting. Van Meegeren painted the quintessential “missing link” to try to prove this Italian connection.

By 1936, he had perfected his technique, painting Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus. Bredius was delighted, and arranged for the Museum Boijmans in Rotterdam to buy the painting, which he believed to be a Vermeer, for a huge sum.

In 1942, van Meegeren sold another painting, Christ and the Adulteress, as a true Vermeer to Göring.

Read more: The secret to all great art forgeries

In the film, once the plot is set up with the discovery of the treasures, the story meanders around the central characters and a lengthy exposition of antipathy between the Dutch and their liberators, before Friedkin finally returns to the core of the story.

However, here he presents a revamped version.

The film suggests van Meegeren, on trial for treason for selling Vermeers to the Nazis, convinced his jailers to allow him to paint and drink whiskey while in confinement.

The real story was much more dramatic.

Even though he could tell the jury which paintings they would find under his “Vermeers” when x-rayed (forgeries are often painted over existing paintings from the same era), the court remained unconvinced.

To settle the case, van Meegeren was set up in a house rented by the Dutch government — under the scrutiny of six witnesses — to paint another Vermeer. To their astonishment, he completed Jesus among the Doctors in a matter of weeks.

Read more: You may spot the fake at Dulwich Picture Gallery, but forgeries are no joke

Surely this is a much better cinematic scenario than the absurdity of soldiers setting their prisoner up in a studio with all the comforts of home.

Nevertheless, the result of this extraordinary evidence was so conclusive van Meegeren was convicted of forgery — not treason — in November 1947. And as the man who had swindled Göring, he became an instant folk hero for the liberated Dutch.

Sadly, his glory was short-lived. He died of a heart attack six weeks later.

Faking the fakes

Despite the rambling first half of the film, we do finally get most of the details of this extraordinary story of power, the art market, the role of critics, and how the latter two can destroy careers.

But I do feel sorry for van Meegeren, the most successful forger in history. The master forger would be rightly horrified that instead of using his own forgeries of Vermeer, Friedkin hired a scene painter named James Gemmill to create rather ham-fisted versions for his film.

Vermeer Paintbrush And Paints For Sale

Although not Vermeers, they were van Meegerens — and worthy of our admiration.

Like Göring, who according to the film’s final credits, “looked as if for the first time he had discovered there was evil in the world” when told his beloved Vermeer was a forgery, van Meegeren would be justifiably horrified by this final insult.

Vermeer Paintbrush And Paints Locations

The Last Vermeer is in Australian cinemas from March 25.