Typical Dutch part II
Like mP3s, which allow any music to be heard at any time, photography ~especially digital photography~ lets us retain and see any image whenever we like. So, never thinking how special it was to have a quartet play your party so you could hear the latest composer, I never appreciated what it was to capture a scene on canvas. My own art tends to rest a comfortable distance away from realism.
A piece of plain white cloth has so many colors playing across it with the light, yet all we see is “white shirt.” But if it was painted with nothing but Titanium White, we wouldn’t even recognize it as a shirt. Shadows and highlights just happen. A camera captures that. But a painter must learn to see and reproduce every fold of fabric, every variation of the light.
That was VerMeer’s schtick. Thomas Kinkade may have trademarked himself Painter of Light, but Johannes VerMeer was a master in the 17th century. There is a nice little educational center in Delft explaining his life ~what little is really known of it~ and times. Detailed descriptions of each of the (reproduction) paintings include symbology of the era, helping us to understand more of the stories he tells in a single image.
His style and choice of subjects aren’t my favorite, nor could I spend hours gazing upon a single work, but his technical skill of capturing light is fascinating. Whether it is the glow of sunlight on a softly folded cloth, a reflection in a flawed glass window, or the shine in a young girl’s eye, he sees and understands what is truly happening, not what the mind renders for easy filing in our poor memories.
Look for the highlights, the subtle variation of color in shadow, reflections we don’t take notice of simply because they belong there. Imagine how uncomfortable and wrong the images would feel without those elements.