On February 10th, 2023, the largest-ever exhibition of Johannes Vermeer opened at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. A historic event in itself: never have so many paintings been brought together, showcasing 28 of the 37 works Vermeer painted. Museums around the world have lent paintings from their galleries, including New York, Washington, Tokyo, Paris, London, Dublin and Edinburgh, making it a truly mesmerizing and unique exhibition.
Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675) is one of the most admired Dutch Baroque artists, along with Rembrandt and Frans Hals. Vermeer’s paintings focus on the domestic genre, depicting realistic, yet almost cinematic in their use of light and composition, settings, often animated by middle class women, whose posture, behaviour, and expressions suggest close study and sympathy. The artist’s particular attention towards careful object placement, clearly defined architectural space and realistic depiction of characters perusing tranquil occupation draws the viewers in and suggests an intimate connection between them and the figures existing withing the canvases.
In conjunction with Vermeer Exhibition, a contemporary UK-based artist Nick Smith was commissioned by Philips, a long-term partner of Rijksmuseum in connecting people with art, to produce a giant community artwork which was unveiled on 22nd February. Created through a series of workshops set up to engage with patients from Catharina Hospital in Eindhoven and Princess Maxima Centre in Utrecht, patients were asked to each paint and sign a single colour chip. The total of 192 colour panels were collaged together, recreating Vermeer's iconic Milkmaid (1658) in Smith's instantly recognisable style.
As more and more studies show the impact and importance of art on mental health and well-being, the collaboration between Nick Smith, Natalie van Gelder, who holds an MSc in Pedagogy and Education and uses art in many sessions, Philips and Rijksmuseum has brought people closer to Vermeer, providing both, relaxing and rewarding experience. Nick Smith adds:
"Art therapy doesn’t focus on the artistic talent of the patient, but their ability to channel their feelings through the medium of art. It’s heartening to see the collective efforts of patients of all ages shine through in this modern take on a Vermeer classic."
The finished work stands an impressive 3.2 x 2.8m and will be permanently displayed in Catharina Hospital after the exhibition close.
View the video on the project below: