Saturday, March 8, 2014

Tim's Vermeer

Tim Jenison (gray beard) is a computer geek, an inventor, a man of ideas and he has enormous stick-to-it-ness when working on project. He feels he's figured out how Vermeer (and perhaps Caravaggio and perhaps a few other painters of the 16th century whose works are amazingly light filled and lifelike got their effects.  He's gone a bit beyond David Hockney's (major British painter) idea of using a camera obscura.

This documentary, produced by the illusionist team Penn and Teller (both of whom are in the movie now and then) shows Tim discovering the process with mirrors and deciding to paint a Vermeer -- in fact "The Music Lesson" which is rarely seen by the public since it belongs to Queen Elizabeth and is in Buckingham Palace.  Tim got permission to actually look at it for half an hour. Of course photographs of it exist so Tim decided to totally recreate the room of the painting -- an incredibly laborious process (probably very expensive too -- but, hey, it's a movie, well a documentary movie).  He met with Hockney and a British art historian who supports the idea of camera obscura.  Eventually Tim -- who is not a painter, has no art training, but taught himself how to make paints as they were made by Verneer, etal -- spent over three months laboriously painting "The Music Lesson" including the laborious detail on the clavier and on the oriental rug that is seen in the original.   To prove he's human he admits after about 3 months that if this weren't a movie he'd throw in the towel).  He completes an amazing painting that seems exactly like the original.  The viewer get a load of information in the movie. I found it totally fascinating.  It's new and it's being  shown in art theatres -- at last on the East Coast (as a Google search showed).  I'd strongly recommend it to people who care about fine art.


Zippi Kit said...

I'm very interested in learning more about their ideas concering the use of camera obscura. I always thought of it as a copyist's technique.

I've seen many portrait painters who were extremely gifted, and am also familiar with techniques used by both Vermeer and Caravaggio.

I lived next door to a highly acclaimed portrait artist. She painted from life and was just an extraordinary painter.

Caravaggio was obviously at least as gifted as this woman and there is no better examples of his expertise than in his use of perspective in his paintings. I'm speaking of where he enlarged parts of the body that were closer to the viewer.

The best way I've seen a modern artist of his caliber illuminate surfaces to be painted and suffused with light was to have north facing windows, with skylights or at least a white washed wall that reflects light into the windows.

This will be very interesting to follow. Thank you for posting about it.

June Calender said...

Thanks for your note, Zippy. I think you will find this film very, very fascinating since you'll really understand what Tim did.

Ladydy5 aka: Diane Yates said...

Thanks for mentioning this! Will see where it us playing but not sure we have it listed here. Will check with a Fine Arts College here to see.


Hopefully it will eventually reach the western part of the US. Of course I hardly know anything about this area -- at least as of today. -- barbara

June Calender said...

When it stops playing in the art houses, it will probably be available on NetFlix.