ART by Tom Leedy                                                                           ellipsis THMB


Three About Vermeer 

Much has been written and said about the great painter, Johannes Vermeer.  And yet, here are three revelatory books that bring new insight into the discussion, each focusing on a different aspect of Vermeer's amazing work:

  - Vermeer, by Wayne Franits.   (All about the content and the context.)

  - Looking Over Vermeer's Shoulder, an eBook by Jonathan Janson.   (The technical stuff.)

  - Vermeer: The Complete Works, Taschen's definitive catalogue.   (Everything about every painting.)


Of particular interest to some readers will be the segment of the Franits book in which he demolishes a specious theory promulgated in the popular film, Tim's Vermeer - i.e., the theory that Vermeer's astonishing works were dependent on the use of a camera obscura to project images which the painter then  painted over.  Via a sophisticated and thorough analysis of the technical, stylistic and aesthetic issues involved, and the evidence of these present in Vermeer's paintings, Franits clearly demonstrates that such a method is woefully insufficient to create works of such exquisite mastery.  In fact, extensive training in optics and art history is not required in order to reach  this conclusion; all one really need do is inspect the cover of the Taschen book, which presents a detail of the painting  "A Lady  Writing A Letter With Her Maid".  In this sun-drenched depiction of a young woman at her desk, one is struck by Vermeer's profound aesthetic decisions and manipulations - the bold simplifications, the understanding of how to render light, shadow and form, the unsurpassed skill required to create his sublime art.  Vermeer was a master in the truest sense.  His works embody a breathing, beautiful power, a vision and insight that no mere slavish copying of mirrored reflections could ever deliver. 

Amazing what humans can do!  Thank you, Johannes.


Read a comprehensive discussion of these books in an article by Rob Colvin: