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Vermeer exhibition, Amsterdam: What the critics say

Updated: May 27

It's been one of the most anticipated art exhibitions of recent years — but finally, the blockbuster Vermeer exhibition at the Rijksmuseum has been unveiled. And according to the art critics, it's been worth the wait.

28 of Johannes Vermeer's surviving 37 paintings have been brought together from seven countries around the world. It is the largest ever show of Vermeer’s work, and is likely never to be repeated.

"Magnificent" say the Guardian. "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" wrote Adrian Searle in his five-star review for the paper.

"prepare for a once in a lifetime experience"

"Breathtaking" enthuses the Times, warning visitors to "prepare for a once in a lifetime experience." Rachel Campbell-Johnston's review highlights how this is the Rijksmuseum's most pre-booked show ever that will certainly generate crowds. "But to miss this show is to pass over a unique opportunity to study the all-but magical artifice of an enigmatic master" she said.

Man looking at the frames painting showing a girl with a pearl earring
Vermeer exhibition. Photo Rijksmuseum/ Henk Wildschut

It's "a profound cultural event" according to the Telegraph. "Even contrarians hardwired to quibble" must concede that, says Alastair Sooke. Yet his five-star review acknowledges that the show isn't perfect. "There are criticisms one could make" he writes."For instance of the themes, at times almost whimsical, by which the paintings are arranged." But overall the Rijksmuseum's Vermeer exhibition transforms what we think we know of the Dutch Master. "Here, he comes across as darker than we’d thought."

It's the unprecedented loans that make this Vermeer exhibition so special, says Nancy Durrant in the Evening Standard. "Museums guard their Vermeers jealously; they are jewels in the crown of any collection" she writes. Yet in this show, museums from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, to the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, "have handed over their precious Vermeers." Summing up the sentiment that echos across every critic's review: she implores readers to "get booking and get to Amsterdam."

Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum opens on Friday 10 February and runs until 4 June 2023.

See other must-see exhibitions opening in the Netherlands in 2023.


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