In the first two installments of a series about artistic authenticity, Rex Sorgatz writes about five different people’s efforts to own a Vermeer and how you can get your very own masterpiece.
It’s possible that Vermeer — an artist who many consider the greatest painter of all time — could paint with no more acuity than you or me. Vermeer may have been a simple technologist — but a technologist who could recreate the world with scintillating photographic intensity, centuries before photography was invented, which might actually be a bigger deal than being a good painter.
I loved these articles. I wish I would have written them…I am fascinated with both Vermeer and art forgeries. Good stuff.
It’s been suggested that perhaps Johannes Vermeer painted his exacting masterpieces with the help of mirrors and lenses. Tim Jenison learned of these suggestions and started to study the problem.
He was in no rush. His R&D period lasted five years. He went to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. “Looking at their Vermeers,” he says, “I had an epiphany” — the first of several. “The photographic tone is what jumped out at me. Why was Vermeer so realistic? Because he got the values right,” meaning the color values. “Vermeer got it right in ways that the eye couldn’t see. It looked to me like Vermeer was painting in a way that was impossible. I jumped into studying art.”
A recent documentary called Tim’s Vermeer (directed by Penn & Teller’s Teller) follows Jenison’s quest to construct a contraption that allows someone to paint as Vermeer did. Here’s a trailer:
Not sure you can find the movie in theaters anymore, but it should be out on DVD/download soon.
This forgotten Vermeer has been floating around for a few months but I just saw it. Love it:
Anyone know who did this? I spent a few minutes trying to find out but got dead-ended in a Tumblr/Imgur attribution black hole. (via ★ryanvlower)
Update: The creator of the image is supposedly Mitchell Grafton, although I couldn’t find any airtight attribution. (thx, all)
Errol Morris follows up on his recent series about Dutch forger Han van Meegeren by addressing some of the comments he received. Here’s Morris on the interaction of historical research and modern content management techniques.
The first version of the Time article that I saw was the “electronic” version from the Web. It is particularly strange, if only because the text (from 1947) is surrounded by modern information, including contemporary advertisements for Liberty Mutual, teeth whitening preparations, wrinkle-cream, and most e-mailed articles. Emmy Göring and Henriette von Schirach complaints are directly adjacent to “Will Twitter Change the Way We Live.”
I also enjoyed the discussion of “Hitler-soup” at the end.
Over on his NY Times blog, Errol Morris finishes up his excellent seven-part series on Vermeer forger Han van Meegeren. Here are the links to all seven parts: one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven.
From part three of Errol Morris’ investigation into Dutch forger Han Van Meegeren, here’s art historian Jonathan Lopez:
Forgery is about the way the present looks at the past. The best forgeries may imitate the style of a long dead artist, but to appeal to people at the moment that they’re being tricked, forgeries must also incorporate some of the aesthetic prejudices of the moment. When fakes work well, they give us a vision of the past that seems hauntingly up to date. And that’s one of the things that makes forgery so seductive.
Errol Morris posted the first part of a seven-part series of posts about Han van Meegeren, art forger extraordinaire.
To be sure, the Van Meegeren story raises many, many questions. Among them: what makes a work of art great? Is it the signature of (or attribution to) an acknowledged master? Is it just a name? Or is it a name implying a provenance? With a photograph we may be interested in the photographer but also in what the photograph is of. With a painting this is often turned around, we may be interested in what the painting is of, but we are primarily interested in the question: who made it? Who held a brush to canvas and painted it? Whether it is the work of an acclaimed master like Vermeer or a duplicitous forger like Van Meegeren — we want to know more.
Morris ends the post with a cliffhanger that, if I didn’t know any better, was written specifically for me: “The Uncanny Valley.”
Update: Part two has been posted.