I’m in a show that starts this Saturday in Seattle, called Ordinary Illuminated. When June Sekaguchi, the curator suggested the theme, I was just about beside myself. Painter of Stuff is how I sometimes refer to myself. I love taking something ho hum, like blue painters tape, and putting it in a really realistic still life with a bunch of other blue objects. It’s the play between objects, their shapes, their colors, the way light falls on them that makes them fascinating to me, not just what they are.
So, when I was listening to the radio the other day, I heard an interview on Studio 360, about how Tim Jenison re-created Vermeer‘s painting, The Music Room. Now, he didn’t do what most painters do, which would be to get as good a reproduction as they can find, and then to copy the drawing via a grid and then while looking at the reproduction, figure out as best they could as to just how Vermeer did it.
He built a whole frigging room with the light coming in from the same direction, ground his own paint, ground the optical lenses that he used to look at the scene he re-created, and went about it very scientifically. Then he made a movie about it. Or someone else did, and it opens later this month. I plan to see it, even though I have very mixed feelings about the whole project.
It’s not that I have any qualms about doing master copies. I’ve done quite a few of them, including a couple of Vermeers. John Singer Sargent is my particular specialty. I learn a lot about putting paint on a canvas every time I do one. In the interview with Mr. Jenison, he complains about how hard it was, how long it took him to paint the patterned turkish carpet.
Well, Duh. It is hard to paint stuff so that it looks real, really real, or mostly real. It took me over 40 years to get good at it. I feel your pain. (sort of.)
On the whole, I’m looking forward to the movie, no matter how mixed my feelings are about it. I think that anything that gives non-painters an appreciation for how hard painting really is, is a very good thing. If the movie becomes popular, there is always the possibility that there will be a new wave of appreciation for realism in fine art circles again. I’m all for that!
In the meantime, I hope you’ll check out my show if you’re in Seattle, or go to the Metropolitan Museum if you’re in New York. They have five Vermeers. Yeehaw! The National Gallery in Washington DC has four.