Posts Tagged ‘Philip Steadman’

Frans Grijzenhout proposes new location of Vermeer’s Little Street but Philip Steadman argues there is a better fit.

December 13th, 2015

steadman-little-street-03

Frans Grijzenhout has recently proposed that Vermeer’s The Little Street shows houses at 40 and 42 Vlamingstraat in Delft. His theory is the subject of a current exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Philip Steadman, author of Vermeer’s Camera: The Truth behind the Masterpiece, argues the case for an alternative location on the Voldersgracht. Steadman’s case is supported with contemporary maps, drawings and a 19th century photograph.

Click here to view Steadman’s illustrated article.

Vermeer-related lecture

February 28th, 2015
steadman

LUNCH HOUR LECTURE: VERMEER’S CAMERA AND TIM’S VERMEER
Philip Steadman
Darwin Lecture Theatre, Darwin Building, London
March 5, 2015, 13:15-13:55
price: free
contact: +44 (0)20 3108 3841 | events@ucl.ac.uk
event page

In 2001 Philip Steadman published Vermeer’s Camera, a book that offered new evidence that the great Dutch painter relied on optical methods. An American video engineer Tim Jenison read the book and, believing he could take the argument further, proposed a simple arrangement of lens and mirrors that Vermeer might have employed. Jenison used this setup to paint a version of Vermeer’s Music Lesson in the Queen’s collection. The process was filmed for the Oscar-shortlisted documentary Tim’s Vermeer, released in 2014. Jenison’s method throws more light, literally, on how Vermeer could have achieved his distinctively “photographic” tonal effects.

The lecture will be streamed live online and recorded for YouTube or downloaded.

Tim’s Vermeer: Pollice verso, but which way?

February 23rd, 2014

Curiously, the two most prominent studies of Vermeer in the second half of the 20th century were not authored by art historians. The American economist John Michael Montias pieced together a coherent biography of Vermeer after having translated and transcribed over 400 legal depositions, wills, deeds, warrants, inventories, promissory notes and other official documents related to Vermeer and his extended family. The British architect Philip Steadman meticulously reviewed the long-debated hypothesis that Vermeer had employed the camera obscura as an aid to his painting. Not only did Steadman confirm the hypothesis, he virtually proved (with numbers in hand) that Vermeer used the device to trace the outlines of his compositions directly to his canvas.

Is the Texan tech pioneer Tim Jenison a serious candidate to make the Montias/Steadman duo a trio? The verdict is still out, or to be more precise, it probably hasn’t been pronounced. Yes, it is true that Tim’s Vermeer has slain dead the general public and mesmerized lay press with a revolutionary take on how Vermeer painted with a simple lens device. But to date, art specialists have remained impressively silent (to those who are familiar with the art history mindset that may already be a pretty clear verdict).

Recently, however, the art critic Jonathan Jones of the Guardian broke file to become the first naysayer to step on the stage. Jones takes big swings and holds no punches. He relegates the Texan and his illusionist partners Penn & Teller to the ranks of dilettante outsiders who accomplish little more than producing a passionless, paint-by-numbers copy of a real masterpiece and creating one big illusion of their own: that virtually anyone can replicate a Vermeer painting by a lens and mirror device discovered by Tim.

Read here: DIY Vermeer documentary utterly misses the point about old masters: Tim Jenison tried for a whole year to recreate a Vermeer painting – and all he got was a pedantic imitation

Tim’s Vermeer update

December 2nd, 2013

More on the documentary film, TIM’S VERMEER.

Vermeer-jug

Can anyone do this?

The press has really sunken their teeth in it. Three new articles look at how Tim Jenison, an American tech wizard and compulsive inventor, believes he has discovered how Vermeer painted and then painted one to prove it. (see a quick summary of Tim’s story below).

Kurt Andersen of Vanity Fair looks at some of the technical aspects of the undertaking. Tim shows his cards and throws in a high-resolution image of his finished Vermeer to prove his point. To get yourself convinced or unconvinced, read the article, see Tim’s painting and then click here to see the original on which Tim’s reconstruction is based.

Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times registers the art history community’s first reactions. As you would expect, they are doubtful without being explicitly dismissive. I would suspect this not so much to avoid the unsavory prospect of being caught on the wrong side of history (remember how dreadfully wrong some got the Impressionists and Van Meegeren and how much they paid for it?) but for institutional good manners and an understandable apprehension about alienating the broad public which the movie targets and will likely win over. Could any one calculate how many more visitors will be pushing though the turnsyles of Vermeer museums if Tim’s Vermeer clinches an Oscar for best documentary feature?

Stefanie Cohen of the Wall Street Journal furnishes background information about the “optical question” posed by Steadman and then describes Tim’s venture reserving Philip Steadman’s iffy comment for last. Steadman’s meticulous investigation and lucid argumentation regarding Vermeer’s use the camera obscura eventually brought almost all art historians onboard his not-easy to-digest hypothesis (i.e. Vermeer used the camera and traced with it too), no easy trick for an art history outsider.

Will layman Tim do as well? Tim’s story has just begun to be told.

Tim’s Vermeer opens Dec. 6 at Lincoln Plaza Cinema, 1886 Broadway, Manhattan. Opens Dec. 13 in Los Angeles, nationwide on Jan. 31.

“Reverse-Engineering a Genius (Has a Vermeer Mystery Been Solved?)”
Kurt Andersen, Vanity Fair
November 29, 2013
http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2013/11/vermeer-secret-tool-mirrors-lenses

“Engineering His Own Vermeer. Tim Jenison, an Inventor, Paints ‘The Music Lesson'”
Dave Itzkoff, New York Times
November 27, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/01/movies/tim-jenison-an-inventor-paints-the-music-lesson.html?emc=eta1

“A Man Obsessed by a Dutch Master: In ‘Tim’s Vermeer,’ a documentary co-produced by Penn and Teller, an inventor tries to reach into Vermeer’s bag of tricks”
Stefanie Cohen, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 28, 2013
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304011304579222152499998092

Tim’s Vermeer – Shaking Things Up?

November 18th, 2013
tim

Tim Jenison

In Tim’s Vermeer, Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor and giant of video and post-production software for home computers, (Video Toaster, LightWave, TriCaster) attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in European art: How did the seventeenth- century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer manage to paint so realistically – 150 years before the invention of photography?

In the search of an answer, Jenison began by working off of the theories set forth in David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters and Philip Steadman’s Vermeer’s Camera: Uncovering the Truth behind the Masterpieces, both of which allege that Vermeer employed an optical device, the camera obscura, as an aid to his painting. Fascinated by the theories of Hockney and Steadman (both outsiders to the art history enclave), Jenison built his own camera obscura but found something was amiss. He immediately came to suspect that not only had Vermeer used some sort of optical device to trace the drawing of his motif onto his canvas (as Steadman had for all practical purposes proved) but must have used it to register the colors and tonal values of his paintings which have been long admired for their uncanny precision, apparently out of reach of his contemporaries.

While viewing in person Vermeer’s Music Lesson, perhaps the artist’s most “optically based” work, Jenison, a video engineer well versed in analyzing images scientifically, became firmly convinced that the work presents optical information that cannot be gathered by retinal observation. Pondering how Vermeer could have achieved such results, he invented—the idea came to him as he was relaxing in a bath tub—a simple, easy-to-use optical device, whose technology was easily within the reach of the seventeenth-century artist, and painstakingly taught himself to paint with it. The mirror of Jenison’s device reflects an object in such a way that a painter can duplicate on his canvas not only an object’s contours on canvas but its colors and tones as well. Putting his theory to the ultimate test, Jenison built a perfectly scaled “set” of the Music Lesson in a San Antonio studio and “repainted” Vermeer’s Music Lesson from it using the device. After various false starts, Jenison learned how to handle the device with greater efficacy, how to hand grind paint and how to domesticate paint and brush, an entierly new experience for the digital engeneer. He employed seven months to complete the work, which he claims is easily accurate enough to uphold his hypothesis.

Although Jenison admits that there is no historical evidence that proves his hypothesis, he believes that if his method for transferring form, color and tone form with a mechanical device to a canvas were used by Vermeer, a chapter of art history would have to be rewritten.

Jenison’s friends, the illusionists and professional debunkers Penn & Teller, united with him to fully document his years- long investigation into the mysterious methods of Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer. The movie includes commentary from Jillett, Hockney and Steadman. Speaking of the film, Hockney said, “It might disturb quite a lot of people,” since it forces you to question everything that you thought you knew about great art and the people responsible for it. But, as Jillette points out, it doesn’t argue that they weren’t geniuses; it just shows that they were fathomable geniuses, rather than unfathomable ones.

video interviews:
Click here to view a YouTube interview with Jenison and hear his his ideas on Vermeer at 34:35 minutes into the video.

Another interveiw with Jenison, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfsbSK0WPqU

review:
Variety, “Penn and Teller’s uncanny crowdpleaser begs the question, is it still a masterpiece if an amateur could do it?”, Peter Debruge
http://variety.com/2013/film/reviews/telluride-film-review-tims-vermeer-1200596123/

TIM’S VERMEEER
director: Penn Jillette
producers: Penn Jillette and Farley Ziegler
principal cast: Penn Jillette, Tim Jenison, Martin Mull, Philip Steadman, David Hockney, Colin Blakemore
cinematographer: Shane F. Kelly
editor: Patrick Sheffield
music: Conrad Pope
u.s. distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
canadian dist.: Mongrel Media
release date; 2013
duration: 80 minutes
production website: http://sonyclassics.com/timsvermeer/

Ideas for the technically minded

March 10th, 2013

Dragnetting the web for Vermeer as I often do, a lot comes up, both illuminating and obscure.

For example, I discovered that aside from Philip Steadman’s game-changing study on Vermeer and the camera obscura, the amount of technically oriented writings on Vermeer’s interiors is extensive, and a number of them can be accessed online. I won’t swear by any: the math is way way over my head, but maybe not over yours.

Steadman lecture

December 11th, 2008

Philip Steadman, the English architect who stirred up so much discussion with his book about Vermeer and the camera obscura, will be giving a lecture called Anamorphosis in Holland in the 17th Century: Van Hoogstraten, Fabritius and Vermeer at the National Gallery in London, Saturday 13 December, 10.30am – 4pm.

I expect he will be examining the intriguing lid of the painted virginal in Vermeer’s Lady Standing at a Virginal.

See my interview with Steadman here.