The Frick Collection’s trio of paintings by famed seventeenth-century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer has returned from Amsterdam to New York after the successful exhibition at the Rijksmuseum. Read more here about the Vermeer paintings in the Frick collection.
From June 15 through the remainder of the institution’s temporary residency at Frick Madison, visitors can once again encounter in one room the Frick’s Officer and Laughing Girl, Girl Interrupted at Her Music, and Mistress and Maid. Recently reinstalled after their presentation in the Rijksmuseum’s landmark Vermeer exhibition, these three canvases have revealed a few more hints about their layered histories. Twenty-eight paintings by or attributed to Vermeer were on view at the Rijksmuseum exhibition, the most that one exhibition has ever shown from his surviving oeuvre of only around thirty-five canvases.
In many ways, the reinstallation of the Vermeer paintings at Frick Madison represents a microcosm of central themes experiences by visitors to the Amsterdam exhibition. All three Frick paintings reveal the artist’s signature focus on domestic spaces, especially the activities and inner lives of women. Likewise, the thematic organization of the Rijksmuseum show highlighted, for example, the role of music in suggesting an amorous relationship in Girl Interrupted in her Music, or the evocation of the outside world with the arrival of a letter in Mistress and Maid.
The Frick paintings also demonstrate just how much Vermeer varied his painting style across his career, a clear lesson from the exhibition. Mistress and Maid is a large-scale, with the paint layers carefully blended, while the smaller Officer and Laughing Girl is comprised of dabs of paint placed side by side. It is a technique that some scholars have associated with Vermeer’s possible use of optical devices such as a camera obscura, a topic of ongoing an impassioned debate. The differences across the three paintings serve as a reminder that their intense degree of naturalism is entirely constructed by the artist, rather than representing a straightforward transcription of reality.