Johannes Vermeer Paints Girl with a Red Hat
Aside from the expectant expression on the young woman's face, much of the vivacity of this extraordinary painting stems from the manner which it is painted.
The reflections of light take shape as pale, densely applied brushstrokes of white and yellow paint which animate the surfaces of the different objects and materials and bring them close to the picture surface, reminding us that we in looking at a painted object in contrast to these strongly lit areas, the red hat and blue garment are painted over darker under layers, which give the colors warmth. The sumptuousness of the materials and the depth and intensity of the color range used by Vermeer contributed to the sense of warmth which is a key element in this work's aesthetic.
"Coming upon this painting in the exhibition, the viewer is confronted with an abrupt change from the other works. "The Girl with the Red Hat" is small even by Vermeer's standards; it is his only known work that was executed on wood panel; and most importantly, its immediacy and intimacy contrast sharply with the meditative mood of the other paintings.
"Despite its modest dimensions, a strong visual impact results from the large scale of the girl. Brought close to the picture plane, she communicates directly with the viewer. Her direct gaze and slightly parted lips impart a sense of spontaneity and anticipation. Vermeer relies heavily on color to establish the mood of the work. The red of the hat and the blue of the robe contrast strongly with the muted background. The bright red of the hat advances, heightening the immediacy of the girl's glance, while the blue of the robe recedes, balancing the composition. Vermeer retained warmth in the robe by painting the blue over a reddish-brown ground. The materials - the red hat, robe and chair finials - are animated by highlights of reflected light. Subtle highlights on the girl's eye and mouth animate her expression. Finally, the intense white of the girl's cravat, painted as a thick impasto with parts later chipped off, cradles her face, focusing attention on her expression.