Looking deeper into a painting

This term we are exploring the work of the Dutch artist Vermeer. This week we are looking at the ‘The Art of Painting’. This painting is sometimes called ‘The Painter in his Studio’.

The painting shows an artist at his easel and a model by the window, behind the model is a large map of the Netherlands. Every single object in this painting was chosen because it had a meaning,  the model is dressed as Clio, the muse of History and this is shown by her laurel wreath, the trumpet  and the book she is holding. Objects on the table also add to this story and would have been chosen carefully.  Lots of paintings are much more than just what you see, we can learn to find the stories the artists are trying to tell us. In the senior Levels of the Little Art School course our artists explore using objects to add meaning to a painting.

Many historians regard this as Vermeer’s most fascinating painting. Vermeer never sold ‘The Art of Painting’, it hung in his studio during his lifetime and would be displayed to customers. The purpose of this would be to show potential customers his skills, it was his own ‘advertisement’.  After his death his wife tried to save the painting being taken by the creditors, but failed, some historians believe the model was one of their children.

The painting itself has had an interesting history. Adolf Hitler bought it in 1940, despite attempts to stop him. At the end of the war the painting was hidden in a salt mine. When the painting was rescued after the war it was taken (in a locked train compartment) to Vienna. The Americans gifted the painting in 1946 to the Austrian government and it now hangs in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. It is one of the most popular and loved paintings in the gallery and is seen as being national treasure.