I just finished watching — finally — the documentary film Tim’s Vermeer.
Wow. Just — wow.
Tim’s Vermeer tells the story of one man’s journey to figure out how Vermeer, the great Dutch painter, created his almost photo-realistic paintings.
Now, I’ve seen Vermeers. I took the requisite Art classes in college.
But I hadn’t really appreciated the difference between his work and that of his contemporaries, or even how different his contemporaries were from the art that had gone before.
Forget that Penn and Teller were involved in this film in any way. It doesn’t matter.
What matters is the fact that Tim Jenison read a book about Vermeer and became fascinated by solving the problem, the mystery, as it were, of how those works were really done. Building on the research and theories that had come before him, he had experience in visuals, optics, and even, in his own words, his “eureka” moment, and then, rather than sit smugly contented that he had figure it out when no one else had, he did something even more extraordinary:
He went out and proved it.
At least as far as is possible without finding a letter or record from Vermeer’s time confirming it.
Perhaps the only thing that might have added to this film in any way would have been to see the Tim’s finding presented to a larger audience of Art professionals for evaluation, although I doubt that none of them could have seriously disputed what he did.
Now, there is a review in the guardian (by Johnathan Jones) that asserts that Tim fails to paint a Vermeer. That review can be found HERE.
Tim never claims he’s painted a Vermeer. He repeats that claim time and again. He even, near the end of the film, states emphatically that if there is any merit at all in HIS version of the painting, it is actually Vermeer’s, because it is his composition, etc. All Tim is doing is trying to replicate the way Vermeer might have attained such detail and realism.
And in that respect, he succeeds in spades.
So, thank you, Penn & Teller, for bringing this story to the public, and for reminding us all again that art and technology are kindred spirits, both of which are essential to the human condition.