Eye Candy for Today: Vermeer’s Geographer

Vermeer Geographer
Vermeer Geographer

The Geographer, Johannes Vermeer, oil on canvas, roughly 18×20 inches(45 x 51 cm). Link is to zoomable version on the Google Art Project, downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Staedel Museum, Germany.

Twenty six years ago this month, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC debuted a most remarkable exhibition of the works of 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. The exhibition included 21 of the painter’s 35 known works, including such famed works as Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Music Lesson, Woman with a Pearl Necklace and The Lacemaker, as well as his only two existing landscapes.

By comparison, the blockbuster exhibition of Vermeer’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2001 showcased 15 of the master’s works, which was still considered an impressive number.

There is a chart on Jonathan Janson’s excellent Essential Vermeer website that lists the pieces present in every major Vermeer exhibition.

I had the good fortune to see both the D.C. and New York exhibitions. Even in the midst of the mind boggling cornucopia of Vermeer’s gem-like paintings in the 1995 show in D.C., The Geographer stood out as one of his finest paintings.

 
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Drawings of Andrew Fisher Brunner

Andrew Fisher Brunner pen and ink drawings
Andrew Fisher Brunner pen and ink drawings

Andrew Fisher Brunner was an American artist active in the late 19th century. He is noted for his landcape watercolors and for his drawings, particularly those in pen and ink.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a nice collection of his drawings, visible online in reasonably large images. Many of these are of Venice.

He has a seemingly casual style of ink rendering that belies the solid draftsmanship on which his drawings are based.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington also has a smaller collection of some of his graphite drawings.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Levitan’s Birch Grove

Birch Grove, landscapepainting by Russian painter Isaac Levitan
Birch Grove, landscapepainting by Russian painter Isaac Levitan (details)

Birch Grove, by Isaac Levitan, oil on paper mounted to canvas, roughly 12 x 20 inches (30 x 50 cm). Link is to image page on WikiArt (click “View all Sizes” for access to large image); original is in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

This is a beautiful and widely recognized landscape painting by the brilliant 19th century Russian painter.

I love everything about this — the dappled shade, the feeling of summer, the strong value relationships, the compositional arrangement of the birch trunks, the delicate accents of color on them and the depth created by their variation in width.

For painters who complain of “too much green” when painting trees and foliage in mid to late summer, I present to you a textbook example of how “too much green” can be taken into the realm of the sublime.

 
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Edmund Dulac (revisited)

Edmund Dulac, golden age illustration
Edmund Dulac, golden age illustration

Edmund Dulac was a French illustrator who moved to England relatively early in his career and eventually became a naturalized British citizen. He worked in the latter part of the “Golden Age” of illustration and beyond.

He was renowned in particular his illustrations for several series of books based on the Arabian Nights.

I wrote more extensively about him in my post about Dulac in 2006, and I’ll refer you to that post for more of my comments. At the time, I was not including as many example images in a post as I currently do, so in this revisit I hope to rectify that.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Jules Bastien-Lepage genre painting

Le Pere Jacques (The Wood Gatherer)
Le Pere Jacques (The Wood Gatherer)

Le Père Jacques (The Wood Gatherer), Jules Bastien-Lepage, oil on canvas, roughly 77 x 71 inches (197 x 182 cm). Original is in the Milwaukee Art Museum.

One of the things that has always fascinated me about 19th century French painter Jules Bastien-Lepage is his use of value relationships.

Notice how vibrantly the young girl, and in particular her blue dress, stand out in the original painting, and yet how, in the grayscale version of the image I’ve provided, she almost disappears into the background.

It accentuates the color in a different way than just applying bright colors.

I’ve seen Impressionist paintings in which a similar technique was used — objects made to stand out only with color, their values kept close to that of the background. See my previous post on Values in Monet’s Impression, Sunrise.

 
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