A View of Delft
Image used under a Creative Commons license.

Anthony Bailey, Vermeer: A View of Delft (Henry Holt, 2001).
Not all that much is known about Johannes Vermeer, the 17th-century Dutch painter. Compared to some of his contemporaries, Vermeer produced little — only thirty-five of his paintings survive, and only a handful of others are believed to have been lost — but his work has an arresting serenity. Bailey, often a writer for The New Yorker, gathers what little can be said definitively about Vermeer, and supplements it with plenty of context about Delft and Holland of his time, as well as helpful treatments of his works. (Several are reproduced in color plates; others are in black and white.)

Here is Google Book Search. Peter Schjeldahl (The New Yorker) reviews it quite favorably. Sanford Schwartz (The New York Review of Books) calls it a model biography in many ways. Michiko Kakutani (The New York Times) calls it a lovely and succinct introduction to the painter’s work. Quillhill enjoyed it. Ann Limpert (Entertainment Weekly), not so much. Harry Maurer (Business Week) says Bailey does a dandy job of sneaking up on Vermeer by portraying Delft. Delft resident Babak Fakhamzadeh appreciated Bailey’s description of Delft. Sue Hubbard (The Independent) says Bailey constructs a vivid portrait of the city in which Vermeer worked and lived. Maggie Gee (New Statesman) says Bailey is best when he is most concrete. This website has all sorts of neat Vermeer/Delft stuff. Here is more on Vermeer’s Delft today. Images of Vermeer’s paintings can be seen here.

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