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Vermeer and music: the love of art and leisure
DIRECTOR: Phil Grabsky
HOST: Tim Marlow
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes (the previous two films in the series also started with a 30 minute music and quiz interlude)
DATES: Saturday, October 26, (7.30pm), 27 (2.30pm), October30 and 31 (both 7.30pm)
This is the third film in the Exhibition on Screen series and this time the centre of attention is Dutch painter Vermeer. Only 36 of his paintings have been authenticated which means that there’s not that much to show.
Filmed in London, New York, Washington DC, the Hague, Delft and Amsterdam, the film shows more than half of his stunning paintings for the first time ever on such a big screen.
The artists featured in the series are linked to a specific exhibition – and with this one the focus is at The National Gallery in London which offers a fresh take on Vermeer, an artist probably best known for the famous Girl with a Pearl Earring.
A recent book and film with the same name further enhanced his and the painting’s popularity and the film-makers cleverly included the author, Tracy Chevalier, as one of the specialists speaking about Vermeer’s work.
As she has written a book about the painter, she is naturally familiar not only with the artist and his work but also strictly speaking doesn’t come from a painterly point of view, which adds to her insights.
Twelve of Vermeer’s 36 paintings featured musical instruments. This is one of the reasons The National Gallery selected this theme, Vermeer’s relationship with music, as a topic for this exhibition.
It is one of the most popular themes of Dutch painting at that time and that’s one of the discoveries we make while watch- ing this intriguing documentary. It reveals an enormous amount about the sitter and the society in which they lived.
Regular host, the affable Tim Marlow, goes beyond the exhibition to tell the entire story of Vermeer’s life. He also brings in the work of other artists of the time who worked with similar themes and as the exhibition also displayed some period musical instruments it becomes part of the discussion.
There’s not that much known about Vermeer’s life apart from his married life and the way he lived but what they reveal is how his family life made an impact on his work, especially the “stillness” of his paintings which so many of the specialists refer to.
And as the curator of the show walks into a room where for the first time ever, three of his paintings hang side by side, her emotional reaction says everything about the weight of the exhibition. One of the paintings is available this once-in-a-lifetime because its permanent residence was under construction.
That’s what these revealing films do. Even when you feel they’re padding a bit because of the paucity of information, you see the paintings on this large scale but also leave the theatre knowing so much more about the painter.
It’s like doing a tour of a world-class exhibition with all the specialists as your guides.