Girl with the Red Hat is one of Johannes Vermeer’s smallest works, and it is painted on panel rather than on his customary canvas. The girl has turned in her chair and interacts with the viewer through her direct gaze. Girl with the Red Hat is portrayed with unusual spontaneity and informality. The artist’s exquisite use of color is this painting’s most striking characteristic, for both its compositional and its psychological effects. Vermeer concentrated the two major colors in two distinct areas: a vibrant red for the hat and a sumptuous blue for the robe; he then used the intensity of the white cravat to unify the whole.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Vermeer also was an art dealer in Delft. There is no documentation of his artistic training or apprenticeship, but in 1653 he became a master in the Saint Luke’s Guild in Delft; he would serve as head of that guild four times in the 1660s and 1670s. Although he was well regarded in his lifetime, he was heavily in debt when he died in 1675. Only in the late nineteenth century did Vermeer achieve widespread fame for his intimate genre scenes and quiet cityscapes.