Structure and Paintings: The Little Street

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Structure and Paintings
Analyzing Architecture and Perspective within Paintings
Curated by Max Cantu-Lima


Johannes Vermeer, The Little Street, 1657


"Space planning is the organizing or arranging of spaces to accommodate functional needs."
#13, 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, Matthew Frederick 

Our next stop on the use of architecture within paintings covers the idea of material and sustainability. A large detail that decides the structure of a building is its material. Choosing this, the architect must take into consideration the location and weather so that the building will not be at risk of collapsing due to infrastructure complications. The use of brick has been the longest and strongest building material used around the world, its first appearance in Europe found in Greece during the twelve century. During the Baroque period, beginning around the year 1600, exposed brick went out of popularity. Brick work was instead covered with plaster. Brick was often the material of choice for economic and time reasons.

Vermeer is truly a master with the brush. His paintings contain such a level of detail that from a distance his work could be confused with photographs. The style which he paints this home, varies between thick application on the shutters, to the dabbing on the brick where the canvas peeks through in certain spots. The Little Street is a little painting that depicts a common place building in Delft. While the painting is quite famous, little is actually known about it. Whether this building ever existed is still disputed to this day as art historians attempt to trace back through history. Regardless of its actual location, the building appears worn down by time and weather. Uncharacteristic for Vermeer, who mostly painted portraiture,  produced a painting within the city he had recently painted before hand, A View of Delft.

Besides the incredible portrayal of detail, Vermeer captures the beauty of the common wealth home. The way he layers the homes behind this sturdy structure in the foreground. The main building provides a sense of security and durability. As an art history student, I know that dogs normally mean loyalty. This building has been relied on and will continue to be trusted because this is not a wealthy part of town. Without the money to erect glamorous Baroque buildings people relied on these brick homes. The growing plant on the left is a reminder that architecture, especially now, has to coexist with nature and be aware of its presence.  But in terms of the time period this was painted in, the plant stands for this working class part of town, full of life.


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