The Essential Vermeer Glossary of Art-Related Catalogue General: Exposition Universelle de 1867 a Paris… – Primary Source Edition PDF: A – C This glossary contains a number of recurrent terms found on the present site which may not be clear to all readers, especially when employed within the context of an art discussion. Some of these terms, signaled by an icon of the Vermeer’s monogram and signature, are also discussed as they relate to specifically Vermeer’s art. The terms in this glossary are cross-linked or externally linked only the first time they appear in each individual entry.
Abstract The abstract qualities in art are those which are independent of a work’s resemblance to external reality. The arrangement of lines, forms, tone and color, even in a painting depicting an aspect of the known world, can be viewed as a series of non-representational relationships. From the late-nineteenth century onwards visual abstract or formal qualities were increasingly emphasized, analyzed and finally isolated by painters. By reducing visual complexity abstraction increases perceptual efficiency allowing us to recognize objects, evaluate movement and orient ourselves in space with great rapidity. Without abstraction the brain would be enslaved to the particular because it would have to recall every detail in order to make sense of the contents of the visible world.
Throughout the twentieth-century, the term « abstraction » was regularly summoned to describe certain aspects of Vermeer’s style. However, abstraction, which we inevitably associate with twentieth-century abstract painting, has no exact correspondence in seventeenth-century art discussion. In Vermeer’s paintings shapes are abstracted, on a few occasions to the point of becoming unrecognizable. Volumes are reduced to their simplest geometric components.
Complicated folds of cloth are untangled. Vermeer’s abstraction may have in part been inspired by the generalized image of a camera obscura. Moreover, history painters had long simplified modeling, form and texture in order to create more universal visuals, and in almost every painting and drawing manual of the time painters were warned against getting lost in distracting detail. The abstract quality of Vermeer’s painting may be so appreciated today not only because it is consistent with contemporary taste, but because, perhaps, abstraction reveals something of the mechanics of vision and renders assimilation more efficient, and therefore more pleasurable. Just as the brain searches for constancies and essentials, so does the artist. Bamboccianti,1 a group of Dutch painters who depicted low-life subjects in alla prima painting technique. Academics held that since art was a scientific and intellectual pursuit, and not a craft, art instruction should be systematic.
Drawing was considered to be the essential requirement for painting. Thus, the manipulation of the so-called porte-crayon was more important than that of the brush. The Academia di San Luca later served as the model for the Royal Accademy of Painting and Sculpture founded in France in 1648. The French Academy very probably adopted the term ‘arti del disegno’ which it translated into ‘beaux art,’ from which is derived the English term ‘Fine Arts. In the mid 1660s, the guilds of Saint Luke, which had been in charge with regulating the commerce of artists and artisans on a local level, and to a certain degree the education of their members, had already had began to lose hold on painters.