Teachers Network


The Computer Lab
Why do we know so little about Johannes Vermeer?  

The Computer Lab
The Library
The Art Studio
The Math Center
The Studio Gallery
The Teachers' Lounge


Instructional Objectives:

Students will:

  1. observe and explore famous paintings by Vermeer displayed in classroom.
  2. research online the history of 17th C Dutch painting and Vermeer’s use of strong light source, shadows and interior settings.
  3. discover genre painting through careful observation and discussion, noting the subject of each painting to depict daily life in portraits and interiors.
  4. compare and contrast the work of Vermeer to that of fellow Dutch painters, Rembrandt and van Gogh.


Time Required: Day 1 & 2.  40-minute periods


Advanced Preparation: Teacher previews websites, books and magazines from art collections around the world. Teacher creates color photocopies of reproductions of famous works of Vermeer. (See Resource List)

Materials: posters, photo reproductions of Vermeer’s artwork: “The Milkmaid”, “The Astronomer”, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, “The Geographer”, “A Lady Writing”, “Maid Asleep”.


1. Vermeer    2. Rembrandt    3.  van Gogh    4.  genre    5.  interior    6. 17th C Delft School


Procedure: Students will view and discuss photo reproductions displayed in classroom, as an introduction to the art of Vermeer and the 17thC Delft school artistic movement in art history.

After viewing works, students will respond in their notebooks to the following:


Describe what you see in each of these paintings.


How does this setting make you feel?


What is similar in all these paintings?


How do we know light was important to Vermeer?


What gives the figures in these paintings a sense of mystery?

Class discussion will follow as to the sharp contrasts of light and dark in these interior scenes as well as composition and space. What was the main theme and how did the artist express his ideas?

HW: Explore a variety of websites to reflect upon today’s class discussion of Vermeer and his paintings. Write a research report on what you have learned about the artist and his paintings and choose one you feel you would like to draw to illustrate his strong contrast of lights and darks. (See Research Report)

Follow up: Find and use search engine on the Internet to explore other artists of this time period in history, as well as to further your understanding of Vermeer. Some suggestions might be:




Research Report


 Rosemarie O’Neill, Principal 



Mrs. L. Langsner, Art Teacher


               Johannes VERMEER is a 17thC Dutch painter best known for his realistic compositions of a single figure, alone in a room near a window, engaged in a simple everyday task. His ability to create intense light and shadows gives his figures a sense of realism almost like a photograph. 


               Using the Internet and library as your resource, write a research report on his life and works. Include photocopies, cover design, and an illustration of one his paintings you admire.


               You may use your search engines such as google.com and askjeeves.com. as well as some of the following web sites:








               Some thought questions to guide you:

1.      Why is so little known about the life of Johannes Vermeer?

2.      Why do they say Vermeer painted with a photographer’s eye?  What is “camera obscura”?

3.      What feelings do we get about the subjects in Vermeer’s paintings when we view them?

4.      What can we learn about them from the settings they are placed in?

5.      What similarities do you find in his paintings?

6.      Which Vermeer painting do you like best? Why?

7.      Why would anyone steal a Vermeer painting?

8.      How is the novel “Chasing Vermeer” relevant to this art lesson?

9.      How have Vermeer’s paintings been used today?

10.   What is the mystery behind his painting “The Concert”?


These thought questions are only to be used to guide you along in your research.  You do not have to answer each and every question.  Just give them some thought as you do your reading.


Enjoy learning about this new artist!  I look forward to new insight and exciting results!




 “Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) was hardly a prolific painter.  During the height of his career, he produced perhaps two to three paintings a year. Today, around 31-35 of Vermeer’s paintings are known to exist.  Paintings by this 17thC Dutch artist have a timeless, and often mysterious quality that is still enthralling to viewers of the 21st C.  Vermeer used compositional techniques, as well as light and color to create highly realistic, almost photographic scenes from everyday life.”    - Scholastic Arts Magazine



Home Next