Special thanks to the Microsoft Corporation for permission to use following biographical information from Microsoft® Encarta '97:
Jan Vermeer was a Dutch painter who excelled in portraying comfortable interior scenes that are composed with mathematical clarity and suffused with cool, silvery light.
Vermeer, also called Jan van der Meer van Delft, was born in Delft and baptized on October 31, 1632. After serving a 6-year apprenticeship, part of it probably under the Dutch painter Carel Fabritius, he was admitted in 1653 to the guild of Saint Luke of Delft as a master painter. An important member of the guild, he served four terms on its board of governors and appears to have been well known to his contemporaries. He made a modest living as an art dealer rather than as a painter.
Only 35 of Vermeer's canvases have survived, and none appears to have been sold. Their small number is the result of Vermeer's deliberate, methodical work habits, comparatively short life, and the disappearance of many of his paintings during the period of obscurity following his death in Delft on December 15, 1675.
With a few exceptions, including some landscapes, street scenes, and portraits, Vermeer painted sunlit domestic interiors in which one or two figures are shown engaged in reading, writing, or playing musical instruments. These objectively observed, precisely executed genre paintings of 17th-century Dutch life are characterized by a geometrical sense of order.
Vermeer was a master of composition and in the representation of space. He arranged tonal values and perspective over the foreground, into the middleground, and farther into the distance in such works as Girl Asleep at a Table (circa 1656, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City). In Maidservant Pouring Milk (1660, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), Woman with a Water Jug (1663, Metropolitan Museum), View of Delft (circa 1660, Mauritshuis, The Hague), and other works, he recorded the effects of light with a subtlety, delicacy, and purity of color that probably never have been surpassed. Among his paintings are Soldier and Laughing Girl (1657, Frick Collection, New York City), and Girl with a Red Hat (1667, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).
Vermeer was forgotten after his death and not rediscovered until the late 19th century. His reputation steadily increased thereafter. He is today considered one of the greatest Dutch painters. His work was forged for a time and sold to the Germans during World War II.