The Free Press, Mankato, MN


February 16, 2014

'Tim's Vermeer': Is it painting or a process?

What if Johannes Vermeer were a machine?

That’s the question posed by Tim Jenison in “Tim’s Vermeer,” a highly watchable documentary about Jenison’s obsessive investigation into how the 17th-century Dutch painter was able to paint with such verisimilitude and luminosity.

In the course of Jenison’s five-year odyssey, the inventor, video engineer and unapologetic non-painter attempts to create, by hand, a painted replica of Vermeer’s “The Music Lesson.”

He’s not interested in copying the painting itself. Jenison saw the original once, when he was granted a 30-minute viewing by Queen Elizabeth II, who owns it.

Nor is he interested in making a copy from a printed reproduction.

Instead, Jenison actually builds a scale model of Vermeer’s studio and fills it with life-size replicas of every stick of furniture, as well as human models, in the painting. He’s interested in painting exactly what — and possibly how — Vermeer painted.

Jenison’s theory is that the artist used readily available 17th-century technology to help him create his art: specifically, a room-size projector, known as a camera obscura, to translate the three-dimensional scene in his studio into a two-dimensional image on a flat surface.

This is not the first time someone has alleged that Vermeer may have used such a device. Most notably and controversially, painter David Hockney and author Philip Steadman have both put forth this argument.

But Jenison takes their speculation a couple of steps further, building a souped-up camera obscura that eliminates some of that antique technology’s inherent drawbacks — reduction in image brightness, for one thing — and introducing a second tool: an small yet ingenious mirror that allows Jenison to compare the projected image with the picture he’s painting of it. (And yes, mirrors were available in the 1600s.)

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
NDN Video
Alicia Keys is Pregnant With Second Child Justin Bieber Takes To Instagram To Diss Orlando Bloom Did Jimmy Fallon Look Up Heidi Klum's Dress? 'Bachelorette' Star Nick Viall Talks Intimate Experience with Andi Dorfman Jessica Alba Sizzles on the Cover of Maxim Allison Williams Shares Peter Pan Throwback Pic Kim Kardashian Defends Brother Rob Against His Ex Adrienne Bailon Bradley Cooper And Sienna Miller Working Together Again You Won't Believe the Celeb Cameos in "Sharknado 2" Legs For Days! Megan Fox Rocks a Silver Mini Is Nick Viall Next for "The Bachelor"? Beyonce Fires Back at New Breakup Rumors No Man, No Problem! Katy Perry Talks Babies Jeah! See Ryan Lochte's 10,000 Calorie Diet "Guardians of Galaxy" Cast Shares Inside Scoop Allison Williams Will Star as Peter Pan in Live TV Broadcast Orlando Bloom 'Takes a Swing' at Justin Bieber In Ibiza Drew Barrymore's Half-Sister Found Dead Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza Ariana Grande's Troubled Relationship With Father