Vermeer over all uses more color, he seems to be lighter and airy with his value and color choices, and if we look at a page filled with Rembrandt's painting overall we have dark backgrounds with the figures emerging from the darkness bathed in light. Vermeer has a wider range of paintings, from images similar in value to Rembrandt where there is a dark background and the figures are bathed in light again. To images where the figures are dark almost silhouetted and the background is light, and images like Lady Standing at a virginal where the value scheme of the entire painting is lighter.
Rembrandt seems to have more of a limited color pallet, but that might be due to his use of a monochromatic value under painting and color washes.
Both Vermeer and Rembrandt are successful in narration, conveying the location and mood of each of the subjects painted.
Vermeer seems to paint more his subjects looking at the viewer rather than Rembrandt who only seems to do this with Portraits, this is a useful tool for Vermeer, it helps engage the viewer more than a strait forward narrative would, with all subjects interactive with one another and not drawing the viewer in by including them with a figures outwards gaze.
Both Artists Portraits are different in style; Vermeer paints more narrative portraits Example Lady standing at a virginal, Lady sitting at a virginal, Lady playing at a virginal, these are portraits of women not necessarily commissioned portraits, but are also narrative.
While Rembrandt seems to have more of a strait forward approach to portraiture where the figure is emerging from a dark background with a good sense of light and dramatic colors, but are not interactive with the environment so much as just documenting the portrait of the subject.
Rembrandt seems to use more visible brush strokes and Vermeer is overall more polished and smooth.
If we compare Rembrandt’s Prodigal son painting with Vermeer’s Lady Standing at a virginal we will see many of the differences I already stated. The differences in overall color and paint application, Rembrandt is much more textural in his paint application. We will also see some differences in the approach of the artists when it comes to story telling and composition.
Rembrandt uses the rule of thirds to great effect in his Prodigal son Painting, the key focal point in his image is in the top left third of the image. While Vermeer has a central focal point located almost perfectly in the middle of the canvas. Vermeer does use the rule of thirds some in Lady standing by a virginal because he has the eyes of the figure in line with the top third of the painting, which adds to the viewers interest more so that if the figure’s face was perfectly centered in the middle of the painting.
The background of Lady Standing is much more refined and developed compared to the Prodigal son, by Rembrandt. This could be due to the message and story the artists are attempting to convey. In the Prodigal son, Rembrandt is focused on the interactions of the figures reunion and the emotions and feeling of each character. While Vermeer is telling us a story about his painting by the location of the woman, her clothing and the overall feel of the environment.
In the Prodigal son painting, Rembrandt leads the viewer around the painting by utilizing his strong focal point and character interactions. The viewer is drawn first to look at the father and son’s reunion, due to the high contrast and emotion felt by the viewer because of the long awaited return of the son by the father. The viewer’s eye is then drawn down the light value mass of the son and is lead across the image by the perspective of the floor plane. The eye is then drawn up to the other son and we see and feel his emotions at his brother’s return. His gaze returns us to the father and son. The viewer continues to bounce around the image looking at each of the background figures in turn, always returning to the focal point by following the gaze of each of the servants, always coming back to the father and son focal point.
Vermeer, not having multiple figures in his image uses the background elements to similar effect in his Lady Standing by a Virginal image. His focal point is the woman in the center of the image; the viewer’s eye is drawn outwards towards the different background elements but always returning to the woman. Vermeer’s visual device is more relaxed in my opinion. With easy sweeping of the eyes over the image, with our eye meandering out to the blue chair in the foreground, getting blocked from leaving the image by the back of the chair, which leads our eye up to the virginal and back to the woman. Then our eye continuing up to the painting, following the edge of the paintings over to the light of the windows, and following the light of the windows back to the woman in the center of the image again.
Both Visual methods used by the artists are successful they are just different approaches to help convey the meaning and mood of the painting by the artist to the viewer.