Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Tim's Vermeer

When you hear that Penn Jillette and Teller are involved in a film, your first thought wouldn't be about someone trying to recreate an artist's style from the 17th century. And yet, this is what they did.

Tim Jenison is a friend of Penn's, and a successful inventor. He was captured by the idea of how Vermeer painted the pictures he did, and had a eureka moment and came up with a rather simple idea using mirrors. After a few trials, Tim (not a painter) could recreate images in the style, and so set about recreating the Music Lesson. And by 'recreating', this movie shows that he did indeed recreate the entire room with accurate glass windows, rugs, chairs etc (which he also made himself). And then the painting... (which, if it wasn't for the fact that he was part of a documentary, he would have given up on). At the end... it looks like this is a good guide to producing your own Vermeer's (assuming you have a few spare months, and period accurate materials...).

Given I know little about Vermeer's paintings, I'm willing to accept this as a plausible explanation for how he worked. I remember reading something about how mirrors and camera obscuras were partially responsible for the Shroud of Turin and Leonardo Da Vinci was blamed for that (because, hey, big name!), and that was a few centuries before this, so why not indeed? I'm not sure many people would be willing to put in the effort these days (especially when it's so much easier to stick your mug in front of whatever you want an image of), but again I must confess ignorance of modern painting practices. Perhaps it takes years to do a really good piece?

Anyway, an interesting documentary about one man's vision to see an idea through to completion, and provide an explanation that's escaped many others.


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