Vermeer was born in Delft in the south of what is today Holland in 1632. He stayed and lived and worked in Delft for his entire life, marrying Catharina Bolenes there and having 14 children with her. His ties to Delft are documented in works like View of Delft. However, on the topics that are today of more interest, his artistic career, not that much is known. It is for instance not known whether he was an apprentice of a local painter of whether he was self-taught. A number of theories have been presented, ranging from him having been the apprentice of local painters from Carel Fabritius to Abraham Bloemaert, but nothing has been firmly established. We do know that he became a member of a local painters trade organization, the Guild of Saint Luke, in 1653. He was furthermore elected head of this guild in 1663, 1670 and 1671, which is a clear indication that he was not just a local painter but actually well respected and established among his peers. However, with a financially strained small family business, a very slow pace of painting (about three paintings per year) and time spend raising a large family, he was never a financial success.
Vermeer was also not well known beyond Delft and The Hague. This can probably in part be attributed to the fact that local patron Pieter van Ruijven bought up most of his paintings. While that of course helped him financially by giving him direct income from his art, it also kept that art from spreading. As such, by his death in 1675 he was only a small local celebrity and that soon made room for obscurity as local painter Johannes Vermeer was quickly forgotten. As such, Vermeer was not even included in source books on the art of Holland for the next two centuries.
This however changed in the 19th century when Théophile Thoré-Bürger and Gustav Friedrich Waagen wrote an essay which attributed 66 paintings to Vermeer (63 of which are today recognized as being his work). This led to an increased interest in the works of Vermeer and the mastery behind them. Following this increased interest, the reputation of Vermeer as a master painter has only increased, to the point that he is today considered one of the greatest of the Dutch masters. It is quite a change for the local painter from Delft who led a local life and was never much known beyond his immediate surroundings. Today, Vermeer's works have inspired novels by Proust and artwork by Dali, just like both a novel and a movie has been made around the painting The Girl with a Pearl Earring. The boy from Delft has indeed arrived on the world scene.
Fine art oil painting reproductions with an online gallery showing all the great art from the ages including great Jan Vermeer Paintings.