Archive for the ‘Vermeer Exhibitions’ Category

Vermeer’s Guitar Player returns home

November 26th, 2013
Vermeer's Guitar Player agina in the Kenwood House

The Kenwood House, one of Britain’s most historic stately homes, has finally been restored to its former beauty. With the aid of conservation charity, eight rooms have been re-presented and reinterpreted to reference different periods in the building’s history. The newly refurbished rooms now feature family trails, an interactive dolls house, original letters and architectural designs. Naturally, in situ is a priceless collection of artworks by Vermeer, .Rembrandt, Van Dyke and Gainsborough which had been collected by Edward Cecil Guinness, First Earl of Iveagh. The work, which took 18 months and cost  £6 million,  is now drawing to a close with a reopening date set for Thursday, November 28. Vermeer’s  late Guitar Player will be in the original location after its was shown for the period of the Kenwood’s restoration and the London National Gallery.

Click here for a BBC video about the restoration.

Click here more about for painting.

Click here for information about the restoration from the Kenwood House website.

drawn from:
Aaron Sharp, “Restored to its former glories: Stately home which houses masterpieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer set to reopen to public”, Mail <>

Vermeer on exhibit in Philadelphia

November 18th, 2013

Vermeer’s Young Woman Seated at a Virginal
Philadelphia Museum of Art
October 26, 2013 – March 2014
Christopher Atkins, Associate Curator of European Painting & Sculpture
Gallery 264, second floor

The Philadelphia Museum of Art will exhibit the Young Woman Seated at a Virginal until March on loan from the private Leiden Collection. Since the work, the only private collector other than the Queen to possess a painting by Vermeer, was acquired by it present owner, it has become a veritable globe trotter being shown. The list below traces the painting’s traverses from its discover to today. Only during the last decade, since the picture was brought back into contact with the scholarly community, has it been examined seriously. Now, after more than 10 years of extensive research by a team of leading scholars, the painting has now been proposed as a secure addition to Vermeer’s limited oeuvre.

  • The Young Woman Seated at a Virginal is presumable painted by Vermeer, c. 1670.
  • The picture is documented for the first time in 1904, when it was published in the preliminary catalogue by Wilhelm von Bode of the collection of Alfred Beit, a South African-born diamond magnate who rivaled the great early 20th-century art acquisitions of Americans such as Frick and Mellon.
  • Before and during the World War II, it is unanimously recognized by scholars, including Hofstede de Groot, Ary de Vries, Eduard Plietzsch and Ludwig Goldscheider.
  • Following the dramatic Van Meegeren affair of Vermeer forgeries, De Vries, the Director of the Rijksmuseum and leading Vermeer scholar, expresses doubts about the authenticity of the picture published in 1948. De Vries changes his mind, in favor of the painting, and writes several letters saying that if his book were to go into a third edition he would rehabilitate the picture.
  • When Beit dies, the picture passes to his brother, Otto Beit, and then to the latter’s son, Sir Alfred Beit, who eventually, in 1960, places the picture on consignment with a London dealer.
  • Baron Frédéric Rolin of Brussels, an occasional collector of Old Masters and dealer in tribal art, sees it and falls immediately in love with. Aware of the doubtful attribution to Vermeer, he acquires it in exchange four works from his collection, paintings by Klee, Signac, Bonnard and Riopelle.
  • Lawrence Gowing (1970) and Christopher Wright (1976) continue to accept it, but others remain skeptical.
  • In 1993, the auction house Sotheby’s is approached by Baron Rolin, with a request to undertake new research on the painting.
  • A complete scientific study is begun in 1995 by Libby Sheldon of University College London, in collaboration with her colleague Catherine Hassall, and in 1997 Nicola Costaras of the Victoria and Albert Museum joins this team. The investigation demonstrates that the picture os unquestionably 17th-century in origin and also that its technical composition is consistent with Vermeer’s known working methods. In particular, the composition of the ground layers is found to be entirely comparable with other works by the artist, and the pigments used were also appropriate.
  • Rolin dies in 2002, and the painting is offered for sale by his heirs.
  • On July 7, 2004, Sotheby’s auctions the painting to an unknown bidder for $30 million, many times more than the London auction house’s estimate of $5.4 million.
  • Two days later, the British art critic Brian Sewell rejected the painting peremptorily in a scathing article describing it as “so damaged and abraded that only modern restoration makes it fit to see” and that the picture will join the many twentieth-century “false attributions and downright forgeries enthusiastically attested by the experts of the day as an object of derision—£16.2 million is monumental proof of folly, not authenticity.”
  • The painting is shown briefly at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (11 August 2004 – 1 March 2005).
  • The buyer finally turns out to be the number-one suspect, Steve Wynn, the immensely rich (as of March 2012, Wynn is the 491st richest man in the world with a net worth of $2.5 billion) Las Vegas casino mogul and art collector.
  • The painting disappears in Wynn’s main office.
  • In 2008, the maverick art historian Benjamin Binstock declared that the Rolin work, along with other five Vermeers, had been painted by Maria Vermeer, the artist’s daughter and “secret apprentice.” Binstock bases his maverick hypothesis on perceived inconsistencies in technique, materials, artistic level of the Rolin and other six works, and on a systematic account of Vermeer’s family members as models.
  • In the same year, 2008, Walter Liedtke formally enlisted the Rolin picture as Vermeer’s 36th work in a complete catalogue of the artist’s paintings. The savvy Vermeer expert begins the catalogue essay stating that there exist “compelling reasons to accept this small picture as a late work by Vermeer.”
  • It is exhibited in Tokyo along with other 6 other Vermeer’s from August 2 – December 14, 2008 (190-192, no. 31 and ill).
  • On October 26, 2008, Norm Clarke of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the painting is sold by Wynn to an unknown buyer for $30 million.
  • The buyer is identified as a New York art collector and dealer in Dutch art.
  • The painting raises its head on Dec. 29, 2009, in Gallery 14A in the European paintings galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, It is labeled as from a “Private Collection” and is on view until June.
  • It is shown a in Norfolk, Virginia 1 June 2010 – 1 January, 2011 at the Chrysler Museum of Art.
  • It is shown in Cambridge, England, 5 October, 2011 – 15 January, 2012, at the Vermeer’s Women: Secrets and Silence exhibition at The Fitzwilliam Museum (no. 28 and ill.).
  • It is shown in Rome, 27 September, 2012 – 20 January, 2013at the Vermeer. Il secolo d’oro dell’arte olandese at the Scuderie del Quirinale. (220, no. 51 and ill.).
  • It is shown in London, 26 June “8 September, 2013, at theVermeer and Music: Love and Leisure in the Dutch Golden Age exhibition.

Vermeers together for the first time at the MET

May 24th, 2013
detail of Johannes vermeer's Young Woman with a Water Pitcher

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has officially reopened its European art galleries after nine months of renovations and reinstallation. Twelve galleries once used for special exhibitions are now used for the permanent collection, enlarging the galleries by a full third. This is the first time that the MET’s five Vermeer’s have hung together there, more than any other museum in the world (the Rijksmuseum which has four and the Washington National Gallery has four). If you want to do a bit of celebrating click here to access an excellent high resolution of one of the MET’s Vermeer’s, the Young Girl Holding a Water Pitcher (courtesy, of the Observer.comGalleryNY).

Academy of Ancient Music puts Vermeer to music at the National Gallery

April 24th, 2013

drawn for the AAMM website:

Vermeer, Johannes	A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman ('The Music Lesson'). c.1662-1665. Oil on canvas, 73.3 x 64.5 cm.

The Academy of Ancient Music has announced it will be will be Resident Ensemble at the London National Gallery this summer and will perform at the Gallery on the hour, every hour on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays in conjunction with the exhibition Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure, which runs from 26 June to 8 September. The AAM will perform within the exhibition space itself, enhancing viewers’ appreciation of the art and recreating the sociable and informal atmosphere for which much of the music was written. A wide range of range of chamber and solo works, including music by Netherlandish composers such as Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck, Willem de Fesch and Johannes Florentius a Kempis, will be performed.

The AAM’s discography comprises over over 300 CDs features Brit- and Grammy-Award-winning recordings of masterworks from Purcell to Mozart and from Bach to Beethoven. The ensemble’s aim is to energize baroque and classical music returning to the style and spirit in which this music was first performed on old instruments—flutes made out of wood, trumpets without valves, strings woven from gut.

The exhibition will feature paintings by Johannes Vermeer, including the gallery’s A Lady Standing at a Virginal, A Lady Seated at a Virginal, The Guitar Player and the magnificent Music Lesson.

Click here for exhibition press release.

Welcome home Mr. Vermeer

April 22nd, 2013

In December 2003, the main building of the Rijksmuseum was closed for a major renovation based on a design by Spanish architects Antonio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz. Many of the old interior decorations were restored and the floors in the courtyards were removed. On 13 April 2013, the main building was reopened by Queen Beatrix.

During the ten year restoration, many of the musuem’s artworks were stored away, a few were kept on display but some (all four Vermeers)  were shipped all over the globe.

Vermeer’s Milkmaid made only one trip, to New York. The Little Street saw Tokyo and Rome. The Woman in Blue Reading a Letter saw Kyoto, Sendai, Tokyo, Shanghai, São Paulo and Los Angles. The smallish Love Letter, perhaps Vermeer’s least appreciated work for the general public, was shipped to Dublin, Greenwich (Connecticut), Frankfurt, Melbourne, Rome, Vancouver, Paris, Doha, St Petersburg and Istanbul.

No one really complained about this state of affairs: there, was after all, except for the paintings’ safety, less to be gained by keeping the paintings put in Amsterdam. On the other hand, from what one might imagine, millions of tickets, Vermeer posters, postcards, mugs, umbrellas, pencils, scarfs, notepads and refrigerator magnets were sold all around the world. Miles, tickets and heads can all be counted: what benefit all this brought to the millions who saw the paintings for a few moments is anybody’s guess.

In any case, welcome back to Amsterdam, Mr. Vermeer.

Vermeer going #1

April 17th, 2013

Although most would fault me for the dreadful photograph to the left, it does have the merit of conveying how if often feels to view a Vermeer at a blockbuster exhibition.

As I had promised in a post below to express some of my Vermeer-going experiences, here is one that deals with a Vermeer exhibition that took place a 35-minute walk from my house here in Rome last year. Perhaps a bit whiny for positivists (those who believe anything that promotes art is good…BTW, I don’t) but it is nonetheless an experience that many of us have shared at blockbuster exhibitions.

Considering their Girl with a Wineglass of great value, the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum demanded it be enclosed in an acclimatized case during its Rome sojourn. This meant that the thick protective glass of the box and the glass of the picture’s frame obediently reflected an “EXIT” sign, various overhead spotlights and a nearby gilt-framed De Hooch. There was really no way of eliminating the reflections unless once one stood obliquely to the side of the picture and danced a bit from left to right, the few times room for maneuvering was available.

The picture was so distant and so dimly lit that I was unable to show (off) to a fellow exhibition goer that in the miraculously depicted stained-glass window motif, Vermeer had represented a figure holding a bridle which, according to art historians, is the picture’s iconographical key. Although iconography is not a language that fires my imagination, the three curious ducks under the bridle do but were invisible as well. I shall spare you descriptions of the dots, dashes and flicks Vermeer’s majestic brushing that were impossible to make out.

Having been strapped before an easel and painted  for more than four decades, I feel safe to say that I can usually tell the difference between a painting and a reproduction. And yet, had I not knelt down in front of the Vermeer and seen the glare reveal the irregularities of the canvas weave near the borders of the painting, I would not have sworn that the it was the real Vermeer rather than a state-of-the-art preproduction. At this point, it does not seen whiny to ask why tens thousands of dollars for insurance should be spent and a pictures should undergoe travel risks in order to  exhibit  a picture that people can’t really see.

Mind you, the Anton Ulrich has every  right to protect their painting as they see fit, but paintings are usually better seen than taken on faith.

The dangers and delights of traveling Vermeers

April 15th, 2013

Although after years of Vermeer-going I would love  to take a side once and for all, my feelings about traveling Vermeer exhibitions remains as ambivalent as ever. On one hand, I, and obviously millions of other worthy souls, would have never experienced certain Vermeers had they not been shipped closer to home. On the other hand, expenses and risks exist.

The possibility of a plane carrying the Girl with Pearl Earring to Japan might crash on Siberian permafrost, a terrorist attack  or some other unforeseeable event might occur while the painting is on tour cannot be ruled out. Don’t roll your eyes, an earthquake actually happened while Vermeer’s Geographer was hanging on a Tokyo museum wall and the Woman in Blue Reading a Letter escaped by a few months one of Japan’s greatest national tragedy, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The recently restored painting was, in fact,  headed to Sendai, one of the most damaged cities. The risks of fragile, centuries-old canvas being damaged through handling, climatic jumps or road bumps would appear relatively simple to evaluate, but as you would expect, there is great debate as to what really happens to globe-trotting canvases. It is rumored that some museums have declined reporting damages to loaned artworks. But things can surely go wrong at home as well, whether home be the tiny,  off-the-beaten-track Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum where Vermeer’s Girl with a Wineglass is permanently housed  or the Metropolitan Fortress of Art. The Love Letter was stolen, the Guitar Player was stolen, the Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid  was stolen and The Concert stolen and never recovered, all from the museums where the works are permanently housed.

Let’s get back to people who are looking at the paintings. Heads can be counted, what goes on inside them cannot. Is it more desirable that ten out of ten thousand  visitors have life-changing experiences while the others more or less forget and move along to the next blow-out exhibition or is it better if that the ten thousand might have a mildly significant experience but no one gets too riled up? And if just one lone visitor among the millions who have attended the last decades’ Vermeer exhibitions were to receive the inspiration to become the world’s next Vermeer?

In essence,  the problem boils down to opportunity. We must calculate the money spent (usually lots and lots), add to it the risks and compare that sum to the results of a rather bizarre average: the overall quality of visitor experience divided by the quantity of visitor experiences. If this isn’t  a pit of snakes….what is?

One thing is certain, the impossibility of evaluating with any objectivity what goes on inside heads of hundreds of thousands of traveling art exhibition visitors (and the effect that this cumulative experience might have on the common good) is a blessing to those who support the exhibitions (i.e. museums and their staff). It is, instead, a curse to the arguments of those who see in traveling exhibitions more potential for damage than good.

I will follow with a few posts on my variegated Vermeer going experiences hoping to give some color to the gray picture above.

Busting blockbusters?

April 14th, 2013

Although as early as 1930 (Italian Art 1200-1900, London) art exhibitions had begun to generate wide-reaching public acclaim, the term “blockbuster” became associated with special and spectacular exhibitions in a museum or art gallery in the 1980s.

Whether sanctified or demonized, blockbuster art exhibitions are not going to go away any time in the near future and will likewise become increasingly controversial among professionals in the field. Museums claim that despite their high costs and nightmarish organizational logistics, blockbusters bring the uninitiated public closer to the art experience, keep regulars coming back and gather critical finances necessary to keep them running. Detractors, who are routinely accused of snobbery, hold the blockbuster has more to do with fast food than haute cuisine and, in real measurable terms, do not benefit the public: on the contrary. In any case, some specialists have begun to hypothesize that the era of blockbuster shows is coming to an end if not for other than the for fact that the business model on which the are based may be ultimately unsustainable.

Here’s a brief rundown of the principal pros and cons of the blockbuster exhibiton and below a few intersting articles.


1.Blockbuster exhibitions draw an extraordinary number of visitors to art museums and greatly increase public appreciation of art.


1. The success of blockbusters lead to such congested viewing conditions that the visitor’s contact with unfamiliar works of art is actually impoverished. Overcrowding may force museums to limit admission. Blockbusters do not educate but lead to a “dumbing down” of the museum and its message. Artists become celebrities like sport and movie stars.

2. Visitors see many artworks that otherwise they would have never been able to have seen. Blockbusters, which generally display numerous works of art, are the best possible chance to understand a particular artist, group of artists or period in art.

2. Blockbusters discourage the public from actively seeking out art and developing strong individual points of view. Visitors accustomed to blockbusters wait passively for prepackaged experiences to be delivered to their door. Many blockbusters present so many works or art that viewers fall victim to accute exhibition fatigue after the first gallery rooms and thereby neglect considerable parts of the exhibition.

3. Blockbusters create a once in a lifetime, eye opening experiences.

3. Since blockbusters become “unmissable” social events, they increase expectations and lay the groundwork for disappointment. Blockbusters are received as events to be witnessed undermining the notion that art necessitates prolonged contemplation to be fully experienced. The sensationalizing the art exhibition distracts from the nature of the artwork itself.

4. Blockbusters attract new visitors, who then go on to visit the rest of the museum and return.

4. The low quality of viewing experience during blockbusters may actually dissuade repeat visits to the museum. After being fed on blockbuster exhibitions even museum members, who are more connected to museums’ permanent collections than the general public, wind up responding only “blockbuster” stimuli.

5. Blockbusters stimulate scholarly research and produce high quality art publications. Many blockbusters are accompanied by weighty catalogues that contain informative critical essays that are illustrated lavishly with hundreds of state-the-art reproductions.

5. Reliance on high-level sponsorship to finance pricey blockbusters acts as a form of censorship. Because not all themes will appeal to sponsors, the museum cannot afford to stray outside of certain subject boundaries which are acceptable to sponsors. In order to maintain a steady flow of exhibition which viewers come to expect, catalogues must be written by many specialists. This discourages coherent views, original research or the expression of controversial ideas. The great part of blockbusters souvenir catalogues are intelligible only to specialists and some are simply too costly for a substantial part of museum goers.

6. Blockbuster exhibitions allow curators to bring into focus important artists and art movements that have not previously receive sufficient attention.

6. Since many of the works requested art treasures, loans are frequently refused affecting the fundamental thesis of the exhibition even though the exhibition is always presented as a disinterested expression of an argument. Art historians are forced to cultivate business and administration skills as much as art expertise.

7. Blockbusters are able to convince visitors to pay sizable admission fees enabling the museum to improve the rest of its service.

7. The high ticket cost of blockbuster exhibitions penalize individual citizens and especially large families belonging to lower economic classes who could, after all, most benefit from contact with artworks.

8. Blockbusters generate media coverage and attract sponsors raising the profile of the museum. By being associated with global brands, museums receive huge marketing benefits.

8. Spectacular blockbuster successes may persuade public funding bodies to reduce their support. Museum are no longer perceived as custodians and promoters of visual arts culture but cogs in the exhibition-industrial complex. Oppositely, commercial enterprises greatly enhance the prestige of their brand by associating with high-brow cultural organizations.

9. Money earned by blockbusters can be used to conserve precious works of art in permanent collections.

9. Fragile works of art may be damaged or even lost during shipping.

Here are some interesting articles on the subject:

April 12 – Vermeer Lectures at the De Young Museum of Art

April 7th, 2013

film screening:
April 12, 2013 – 6:15 p.m.
Proust + Vermeer
(Dir. Richard Voorhees, 30 mins., in French with English subtitles)
Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park. 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco


If you are in the San Francisco area and are a Vermeer devotee, an evening at the De Young might be worthwhile. Arguably, the greatest French writer of the 20th century, Marcel Proust and one of the most fervent early admirers of Vermeer, wove many observations about the painter into his novel À la recherche du temps perdu. The most famous was the narrative of Bergotte, an aging art critic who leaves his sick bed in order to go see The View of Delft, suffers an attack and dies while admiring Vermeer’s painting and contemplating on the mysterious “petit pan de mur jaune.” Perhaps more than any other, Bergotte’s final thoughts before dying faithfully reflect Proust’s idea of art. (But which part of Vermeer’s View of Delft, if any, picture corresponds to the noted “petit pan de mur jaune”?) Click here.

Afterwards (7:00 p.m.) Kate Lusheck, Assistant Professor of Art History/Arts Management (University of San Francisco) and a specialist in 17th-century Northern Baroque art, discusses issues of artistic meaning, representation, and tradition in the paintings and prints of the Dutch Golden Age: Looking Beneath the Surface: Dutch Art and Meaning in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer.

Ticket information.

Vermeer exhibition catalogue on sale

April 5th, 2013

You can currently preorder a copy of the Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure exhibition catalogue directly from the National Gallery. Price £9.99. Item will be dispatched June 2013. Click here.

View spreads of this book here (2 MB PDF)