Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) and The Milkmaid

There is no doubt that The Milkmaid is considered by many viewers as a wonderful piece of art made by a reknowned Delft artist, Johannes Vermeer,during his formative years of mature painting. At the time while Verneer was creating The Milkmaid, he was already aware and familiar with unique painting styles and subjects that had been offered by varios Dutch artists. This was what he emplyed extensively in this piece of art. More so, he was considered to be an outstanding painter with the immense ability to use his physical direct observation to develop the highly organized art with his artistic sensibility. The Milkmaid (with the measures of 18 x 16 1/8 in., or 45.5 x 41 cm) is an outstanding piece of art that reflects the reality in a manner that is tactile and optically sensational. Actually, The Milkmaid is unique and distinctly compared to other pieces of art under Vermeer’s name.

The theme of naturalism is the area Vermeer wanted to portray to viewers more clearly than somebody had desired ever before. This is important to note that for Vermeer to come up with The Milkmaid, he took a lot of influence from the works of Gerrit and his fellow Leiden artists, whose pieces of work tackled the issue of reality with a great caution than before. That kind of influence is seen to have taken a deep toll on the painting The Milkmaid which displays nature with a high sense of illusion. In giving the picture a critical look, a casual viewer may take the picture to be too photographic and lacking the deeper sense of natural reality. However, a much more deeper assessment shows that the picture is professionaly tailored and crafted to depict the natural reality in a superior way. This can be seen in the crafted relationship Veermer had created between different colours, contours, shapes and even the association he had created between light and shadow.

The naturalness and realistic nature of The Milkmaid is not complete without looking at the colours adopted, which primarily are of the three kinds: red, blue and yellow. This robust use of three colours to reflect the idea of nature is found to be replicated in many of Vermeer’s paintings, such as The Woman with a Water Pitcher. Vermeer perfectly manipulated the three colours to visualize and conceptualize the reality that was happening in the kitchen, in the location of The Milkmaid. Besides, with the use of these three colours, Verneer also invested in the use of geometric shapes to bring clearly his intentions. For intance, we see a figure forming the right triangle balancing nicely on a table, and further enclosing in the rectangle. That kind of balance has some sort of significance to the theme of naturalism in that it depicts the kind of stability and completeness that natural creations have.  

When one looks criticaly at the picture, in the whole, one notices how Veneer has calved the foot warmer which, according the Dutch culture arts, has got a deeper meaning than what is portrayed. Veneer, for instance, not only leaves the foot warmer alone but also incorporates it with a pot containing some coals. Foot warmers have been used in many Dutch arts to show the feminine aspects of the society. That means that they reflect a kind of feminine desires women are going through and that are being absent in men. In this perspective, Veneer is being natural by bringing his viewers to be consistent with reality in the feminine world in a manner they might not be aware of. This kind of action can be said to further the theme of naturalism.

The theme of naturalism can also be depicted from Veneer’s incorporation of a Deft tile decorated with an image of a traveling man. This kind of prediction is made possible with the inclusion of a walking stick and a knapstack to show that actually somebody is passing. All these images are used figuratively to show that the woman is having a deep thought of her lover who isreally absent either for a longer period of time or a shoter one but with the much intent. What Verneer is doing here is that he is trying to show to viewers what kind of romantic feelings happen to the female gender, especially when they are lonely because of the loved one. This kind of action, therefore, is seen to extend the theme of naturalism in a manner that the viewer has to think critically in order to get the true sense and meaning of the artist’s intentions. This is super natural. More so, these feminine presentations extend the idea of naturalism in a manner that takes into consideration the complex female anatomy that in comparison is absent in  many other paintings of the same genre.

The climax of Vermeer’s use of this idea of naturalism can be seen in the integrated use of tactile and optical sensations that seem to coexist in a manner that is absent in many oeuvres made in the same period of time or before. Tactile and optical sensations are the two important features that any good painter would use to show the naturalistic aspects of his or her works. From the explanations given in this paper as well as due to the physical view of The Milkmaid picture, it becomes completely evident that Verneer is the one artist that values the naturalistic aspect of reality.   

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