Sunday, March 09, 2014

Tim's Vermeer

Today I saw the documentary Tim's Vermeer.

Tim Jenison is a longtime friend of Penn & Teller. When they learned that he had developed an obsession for determining whether or not famous Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer used technology to create his works, they decided to film the process.

The result is this funny, smart, captivating film.

Jenison, so certain that British artist David Hockney is on to something with his theory that some of history's finest artists used camera obscura techniques to complete their paintings, decides to take the idea one step further and teach himself how to paint with that process.

Using a homemade mirror-on-a-stick contraption, he tests his skills and it works. Next, he decides to go full on and renovate a warehouse in San Antonio to look just as Vermeer's studio would have looked, painstakingly re-creating the windows, objects, floors—and people from The Music Lesson. He also mixes the paints the way Vermeer would have had to in the 1600s for the most authentic match possible.

Then, for several months, Tim paints. He paints every inch of his canvas in the exact way that he proposes the original artist did. What he discovers along the way had the audience I sat with gasping in wonder and delight.

I won't spoil the ending and tell you what his conclusion came to be, but I will say that I never dreamed that watching paint dry could be so entertaining.


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