Carel Fabritius – online talk by Mrs Clare Ford-Wille

Carel Fabritius was a Dutch painter, born four hundred years ago in February 1622 in Midden-Beemster, and, despite his early death in 1654, better known and admired than other painters who lived twice as long.

He was a pupil of Rembrandt and worked in his studio in Amsterdam. Fabritius, who is considered a member of the Delft School, developed his own artistic style and experimented with perspective and lighting. He was only 32 years old when he was killed in Delft at the 1654 gunpowder disaster. Among his works are A View of Delft and The Goldfinch.

There are less than twelve paintings attributed to Fabritius, but one above all has contributed to his reputation, which has gathered momentum since the later 19th century. It is of course The Goldfinch, which has gleamed from its prominent position on the wall in The Mauritshuis in The Hague since its acquisition in 1896 at a Paris sale by Abraham Bredius, the then director of the museum.

Despite much art historical detective work, two monographs, and an exhibition in 2005, little more has been discovered to explain the admiration of ‘the many connoisseurs’ described by Dirck van Bleyswijck.

What can be discovered about this artist and his small body of work undoubtedly shows his innovative and outstandingly fresh approach, and what are the possible connections with Vermeer?

Certainly, the inventory of Vermeer’s estate listed two works by Fabritius. Perhaps Fabritius most obvious influence upon Vermeer lies in his light and luminous colour. Although Fabritius does not seem to have been known outside Delft, within the city he was much praised posthumously in the 1660s as being, together with Vermeer, the most outstanding painter of his time. In 1667 a poem by Arnold Bon, published by Van Bleyswijck, likens Vermeer to a phoenix, rising from the ashes of the fire that had consumed the renowned Fabritius. This gave rise to the misunderstanding that Fabritius was Vermeer’s teacher. It was not until the 19th century when Theophile Thore (Wilhelm Burger) rediscovered Fabritius whose Goldfinch he owned.

On a Thursday evening in January, in principle Members Only, although Members could invite a guest to watch their screen with them.

This online presentation will last about 60 minutes with Q&A. Cost £10 per screen. Please register by email, via events at

Mrs Clare Ford-Wille, an independent art historian and lecturer, has an Honours degree in History of Art, Birkbeck College, University of London. She has lectured on European art, architecture, and sculpture for more than thirty years, primarily for the University of London, Morley College, The City Literary Institute, the V&A and other museums and art galleries. She leads study tours to Europe. Clare is an Associate Lecturer at Birkbeck and Vice-President of The London Art History Society.

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