Skip to Main Content

The Vermeer Phenomenon, Part II

Maygene Daniels, chief of Gallery Archives, National Gallery of Art. Johannes Vermeer, the unprecedented exhibition that featured 21 of the existing 35 works known to have been painted by the Dutch artist, was on view from November 12, 1995, through February 11, 1996, at the National Gallery of Art. It was drawn from museums and private collections in Europe and the United States. Among the paintings on display was View of Delft, on loan from the Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague, which had never been seen outside Europe. In the winter of 1995/1996, the Gallery was closed during two federal government shutdowns and a blizzard, which severely affected public access to the exhibition. As a result, the Vermeer exhibition was inaccessible for 19 days of its run at the Gallery. After 10 days of the second government furlough (on December 27), the exhibition was reopened using private funds. The rest of the Gallery remained closed to the public. In this presentation held on November 15, 2015, to celebrate the 20th anniversary, Maygene Daniels explains that the exhibition was truly distinctive because of its confluence with unusual public events. Anticipation, press coverage, and word of mouth all brought visitors to the Gallery. Due to the limited access, over time the Vermeer experience moved from intense interest to frenzy to near hysteria as the unforeseen became reality.