masthead Vermeer Milkmaid

Feb 23, 2023

Philips partners with patients and the community to highlight how art can enhance health and well-being

Estimated reading time: 2-4 minutes

Vermeer masterpiece provides inspiration for giant community artwork, unveiled at the Rijksmuseum

Looking at beautiful art is rewarding to the human brain. It has been shown to reduce cortisol levels and can have a positive impact on both people’s mood and physical well-being [1]. Many of us seek ways to improve our health and well-being, and creative self-expression can play an important role. While some will be interested in the latest exercise trend or motivational podcast to inspire better physical health and well-being, many turn to a creative outlet such as dancing, writing or art. How can we make more use of art to not only enrich, but also enhance our lives?

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The power of art

Art therapists encourage patients to engage with art and to express their emotions via the creative process, which can be very beneficial in helping patients through mental and emotional traumas, anxiety, and depression. Art can be a refuge from the intense emotions associated with illness [2]. Over the past decade, health psychologists have looked at how the arts might be used in a variety of ways to heal emotional injuries, increase understanding of oneself and others, develop a capacity for self-reflection, reduce symptoms, and alter behaviors and thinking patterns [1].

Hospitals invest in art as it is proven to be beneficial and rewarding to their patients, and also to their caregivers. Research has found that having art on the walls can reduce the time a patient needs to spend in a hospital or healthcare center. It’s been associated with shorter operation recovery periods, mental healthcare treatment times, the length of hospital stays, and more [3].


Philips and the Rijksmuseum have a long-term partnership and continuously look for ways to connect people with art. On February 10th, 2023, the largest-ever exhibition of Johannes Vermeer opened in the Philips wing at the Rijksmuseum. Never have so many Vermeer paintings been brought together, showcasing 28 of the 37 works Vermeer painted. Museums around the world have lent paintings from their galleries, including New York, Washington, Tokyo, Paris, London, Dublin and Edinburgh, making it a truly mesmerizing and unique exhibition.

As more and more studies show the impact and importance of art on mental health and well-being, Philips has brought people closer to Vermeer by teaming up with contemporary artist Nick Smith and Natalie van Gelder, who holds an MSc in Pedagogy and Education and uses art in many of her sessions. A series of workshops was set up to engage with patients from Catharina Hospital in Eindhoven and Princess Maxima Center in Utrecht, but also with the general public and Philips employees who collectively participated in a giant community artwork. “Creating art can be relaxing and rewarding, it can lower stress levels, making you feel mentally clear and calm,” adds Natalie van Gelder. 

Community project

The community artwork was revealed on February 22nd at the Rijksmuseum. Artist Nick Smith created a modern take on Vermeer’s world-famous Milkmaid by dividing his interpretation of the piece into 192 panels, which each participant painted. Nick Smith said, “Art therapy doesn’t focus on the artistic talent of the patient, but their ability to channel their feelings through the medium of art. It’s heartening to see the collective efforts of patients of all ages shine through in this modern take on a Vermeer classic. I’m delighted and honored that this new ‘masterpiece’ will live on in Catharina Hospital.”

Art can reduce stress and anxiety. Art can distract and inspire. Art can make patients happier. Art can speed up healing. Studies that show the impact and importance of art on health and well-being are numerous.

Excited to see the Vermeer exhibition and feel inspired? Check Interested to learn more about this project, please visit

[1] Camic PM. Playing in the mud: health psychology, the arts and creative approaches to health care. J Health Psychol 2008;13(2):287–298 [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
[2] Collie K, Bottorff J, Long BC. A narrative view of art therapy and art making by women with breast cancer. J Health Psychol 2006;11(5):761–775 [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
[3] Fancourt D, Finn S. What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? A scoping review. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe; 2019 (Health Evidence Network (HEN) synthesis report 67).

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Laura Seikritt

Laura Seikritt

Philips Global Press Office

Tel.: +31 6 20740318

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Marije Ansing

Marije Ansing

Philips Global Press Office

Tel.: +31 6 50589016

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