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Prior to starting this picture study aid, Vermeer was an artist I admired very much. I studied a few of his paintings in college in depth but knew very little about his life (with good reason – very little is actually known about his life). However, putting together this picture study aid has given me a much broader appreciation for his work.
A great deal of mystery surrounds him and his life. When exactly he was born (he was baptized on 31 October 1632), who his teacher was, if he traveled, how many children he had, and how exactly he died are question marks that have been debated and theorized about especially in the last few decades as his popularity has continued to rise. Did he use a camera obscura to achieve the lighting effects and details that are found in his pieces? Did he merely use a mirror?
And while I think these debates are interesting and can add an element of intrigue to picture talks with older students, I didn’t include much about them in the actual picture study aid for two reasons…. First of all, trying to summarize the debate within the limits of both my knowledge and the size of the picture study aid would be difficult at best. Secondly, as Ms. Mason suggests, when doing our picture talks, “there must be knowledge and, in the first place, not the technical knowledge of how to produce, but some reverent knowledge of what has been produced; that is, children should learn pictures, line by line, group by group, by reading, not books, but pictures themselves.” (vol 6, p 214)
Finally, as with the last few picture study aids, this one includes full-sized prints (without artist names or titles) at the end. If you are interested in having the name/title/date information underneath the painting, you can download a file with just the prints here.
Though there aren’t many concrete facts about Vermeer’s life, biographers and art historians have managed to piece details together based on quotes, legal documents, and general knowledge about Delft from the short span of his life there. A few of these books have been particularly helpful in putting together this picture study aid:
- Vermeer: A View of Delft by Anthony Bailey
- Vermeer: The Complete Works by Karl Schütz
- The Milkmaid by Walter Liedtke
Traces of Vermeer by Jane Jelley also looked compelling, but because of time constraints, I chose to read Anthony Bailey’s biography over this one so I have no experience with it.
Also, the book Discovering the Great Masters by Paul Crenshaw is on the AO Year 12 book list and has a short write-up for The Art of Painting.
And for children:
- The Vermeer Interviews: Conversations With Seven Works of Art by Bob Raczka – This would be good for older students or parents wanting to know more about the pieces. I would not recommend this for younger students. It includes The Milkmaid, The Geographer, The Art of Painting (titled “The Artist in His Studio”), and Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, among others.
- Anna and Johanna by Geraldine Elschner – This is purely fictional and tells the “story” of two characters in Vermeer’s paintings (The Milkmaid and The Lacemaker).
There were a few others for children that looked interesting but I was unable to get from the library to review:
- Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
- Vermeer’s Daughter: A Novel by Barbara Shoup
- Vermeer’s Secret World by Vincent Etienne
If you are interested in diving more into the debate about what he may have used to aid in his painting (camera obscura, mirror, etc.), the documentary Tim’s Vermeer is also very interesting.
This is by no means an exhaustive analysis or study of each piece, and that is intentional. I tried to keep it all very simple in the spirit of there being, “no talk about schools of painting, little about style; consideration of these matters comes in later life, the first and most important thing is to know the pictures themselves. As in a worthy book we leave the author to tell his own tale, so do we trust a picture to tell its tale through the medium the artist gave it. In the region of art as else-where we shut out the middleman.” (vol 6 pg 216)
Also, please keep in mind that I’m not even close to being a Charlotte Mason expert! And though I do have a BA in art history, I’m definitely not an expert in that area either. 🙂
For enjoying art with children in general, I also included a page of art sources that I’ve found particularly good:
Online Art Collections
For younger children, I highly recommend the Mini-Master series by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober. Also, the Touch The Art series by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo.
For both younger and older children, the Come Look With Me series by Gladys S. Blizzard is excellent.
You may download it below for personal use in your own homeschool (Ambleside Online, another Charlotte Mason curriculum, or otherwise). All of the prints are included in the Picture Study Aid file, so need to download a separate file for that (unless you want the aritst/title/date information printed below the pieces, then you will also want to download the six artworks file below). If you have any feedback or suggestions, please fill out this form!
I will also offer a printed, coil-bound version of the entire Picture Study Aid or just the prints in the near future as well (I’ll make an announcement on Instagram and my mailing list when it’s available).
(if you are downloading the picture study aid, you do not need to download the artwork file – they are included in the picture study aid)