from Joan Justis
A friend of mine has a small print of the Dutch artist Johann Vermeer entitled The Milkmaid painted in the years 1658-1660. I commented on it and she explained to me that modern art historians discuss at length the sexual symbols and Vermeer’s passionate purposes in object and color selections within the painting. I was surprised and certainly disappointed at what seems to be a singular focus of our times.
An exhibition of Vermeer’s paintings was brought to the National Gallery of Art in 1995-96. The renowned curators of the exhibition were Frederik J. Duparc and Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. They published a beautiful and informative catalogue of this exhibition. (Can be found on Amazon as Johannes Vermeer by Arthur Wheelock and Ben Broos. Be sure to click on the “Look inside this book.” http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0894682199/ref=tmm_pap_new_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=new&sr=8-1-fkmr0&qid=1401476658 )
Their interpretations referred to treatises on Dutch art and domestic life written during Vermeer’s time. They commented that the footwarmer was an emblem associated “with a lover’s desire for constancy and caring”.(p. 110) They further wrote that this was not a reference to romantic love, but to “the maid’s human warmth and evident devotion to her task” to provide nourishment for others. They discussed the heroic mood and the brilliant use of perspective and light in the composition. “Her stature is enhanced by the wholesomeness of her endeavor: the providing of life-sustaining food….” (p.108)
However, as we read these interpretations of Vermeer’s work, the most interesting point is that no writings by Vermeer pertaining to his artistic life, his philosophy of art, or his thought processes have been found. All that you read in analysis of his paintings has been surmised by the analyst.
I finished the painting of “the farm that no longer exists”. The best part of the effort was showing the progress to the woman who grew up there, because I was able to hear many wonderful stories about her childhood on that farm. They are so happy to have the painting. A very great reward for my efforts at accuracy. (There were only white curtains in the upstairs windows! and Mother grew geraniums in the front windows on very wide sills.) Such fun!