Read the entire interview.The Essential Vermeer: For many years, art historians pictured Vermeer as an isolated painter in a relatively small town, a painter who, in the security of perfectly arranged interiors, crafted perfect scenes of domestic intimacy. Is there anything wrong with this picture in your opinion?Timothy Brook: The image of Vermeer passing his days in a small town painting quiet domestic interiors is how we see him as we peer back from our cosmopolitan whirl and wonder at the smallness and completeness of the world his paintings seem to reveal. That world feels familiar, and yet so unlike our own. This mixed sense of familiarity and loss is why we enjoy imagining the places he lived in and painted with nostalgic pleasure. But Vermeer’s real world extended outside the walls of his mother-in-law’s house. He may have lived in a provincial town, but that town was the home of merchants who actively engaged in global trade, and the fruits of their trade flowed past his eyes. A few of these foreign things came right into his house, and he put them in his paintings. The world he wanted to depict was the intimate domestic setting in which he passed some of his time, but the world in which he lived was quite as wide as our own, if less busy, and he was part of it.
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