Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum - What the Critics Say

The hotly anticipated Vermeer Show at the Rijksmuseum is now open. It is the Rijksmuseum's first retrospective exhibition of works by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer and the most complete ever mounted with 28 of his 37 paintings. It includes the Rijksmuseum's own Vermeer masterpieces including the world-famous The Milkmaid and View of Houses in Delft, Known as ‘The Little Street’ as well as loans from other institutions including The Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Geographer.

The Rijksmuseum show has garnered rave reviews.

Adrian Searle at the Guardian described the show as 'an unmissable feast' in his five star review.

'Mystery and enigma are attractive. Who is that woman in the red hat, or the one with the pearl earring? What’s in that letter? What is that girl looking at through the window? What is she thinking? Who is approaching? This exhibition, at last, gives us not just Vermeer’s painted spaces, but space to be with them and to occupy their unfolding strangeness. Unmissable.'

Rachel Campbell-Johnson at The Times also awarded the show five stars in her review.

'There will be crowds. Never before has the Rijksmuseum had so many advance bookings. But to miss this show is to pass over a unique opportunity to study the all-but magical artifice of an enigmatic master who transformed the mundanely domestic into what, the longer you look at it, comes to feel more and more like a small miracle'

Jason Farago of The New York Times describes the show as

'just about perfect: perfectly argued, perfectly paced, as clear and uncontaminated as the light streaming through those Delft windows'

View of Delft, Vermeer - MAURITSHUIS, DEN HAAG

Nancy Durrant of the Standard gives the show five stars and describes it as 'pretty much all killer and no filler' 

'But amid the virtuosity, the sensitivity and observation, the man, not just the painter, does emerge – as a master storyteller. Every detail sparks a narrative; the stained glass crest on a window indicating a venerable house; a hopeful face, regarding its reflection with a string of pearls; a pair of discarded shoes; and letters, all those letters, they’re almost a cheap trick. But it’s impossible not to fall for it, every time'

Mistress and Maid by Vermeer, The Frick Collection

For The Telegraph's Alaistair Sooke, 

'This is art as immaculate conception. Time to worship. Even contrarians hardwired to quibble – and there are criticisms one could make, for instance of the themes, at times almost whimsical, by which the paintings are arranged – must concede that this is a profound cultural event'.

Waldemar Januszczak of the Sunday Times, described the show as 'the exhibition of the century'

'Paradigm-shifting, brilliantly presented, cleverly designed, revelatory, intoxicating — this is one of the great art experiences of my lifetime. And yours.'

Tracey Chevalier, novelist and author of the international bestseller Girl with a Pearl Earring (1999) admires the masterful curatorial and design approach of show in her review for the The Art Newspaper:

'What the curators and the designer have managed to do is exceedingly rare: they have told the story of Vermeer using his own aesthetic. Marrying what you say with how you say it results in an experience richer than the sum of its parts; this is what every creator—be it painter, writer or curator—is aiming for, and few achieve. I have never seen a show that has managed this so successfully. The exhibition itself has become a work of art. Exhibition organisers will be learning from this show for years to come'.

The exhibition runs 10 February - 4 June 2023, 9:00 to 17:00 with extended hours until 22:00 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Ticket prices start from € 23.50 per person. The show is sold out but the museum has said it is working on ways to ensure more people have the opportunity to see the exhibition.

If you have not managed to get a ticket to the show, do take a look at the exhibition catalogue that accompanies the show.