Vermeer’s A Lady Writing

A lady a writing


Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena has a little treasure on loan. From now until February 2, 2009, there is a rare opportunity to see Vermeer’s A Lady Writing. On loan from the National Gallery in Washington, this is a characteristic example of Vermeer's mastery of paint and light. A Lady Writing, created sometime in the mid-1660s shows a woman poised to write, but gazing out at the viewer instead.

Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) is one of the world’s most venerated artists. One of 35 paintings by Vermeer, this piece shows a woman poised to write, but instead looking out at the viewer instead. It is as if the viewer has stepped into the woman's space interrupting her in her activity. She look at the viewer alert, friendly and inviting.

One does not know what the work is about, there are no visiual clues, but Vermeer cleverly uses this set up to pull you into the painting and hold your attention to explore. As the viewer looks at all the details, he/she might also recognize the yellow jacket, an item which belonged to Vermeer's household, which has been used in other paintings as well.

Vermeer's technique is superb in that his work does not show any lines. Instead form and detail are only suggested through subtle value shifts in the planes and the use of strategically places visual clues.

True yellow has only been used on the sleeve. The rest of the garment appears to be yellow only because Vermeer uses optical effects to give the appearance of a yellow jacket.

Vermeer is considered a Classicism who creates settings that could be anywhere at anytime. He uses no spacial or time references in the painting. Although most everything in the painting is placed horizontally to the picture plane, he uses only two elements to create spacial depths, the angle of the chair and the sweep of cloth.

My notes taken from an interview with Arthur Wheelock - Curator of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC

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