Art a GoGoArt Over Easy


Art a GoGo reviews the new DVD Girl With a Pearl Earring
by Kathleen Lang

The art created in Holland during the 17th century has often been described as the "Golden Age" of Dutch art--and for a very good reason. There was an abundance of artists who sold paintings, not just to wealthy aristocrats, but also to the growing middle class who too desired pictures to display in their homes. Because Holland was primarily a Protestant country, there was a rejection of religious imagery. In contrast to Italy at this time, images of Christ and the saints were not popular with the Dutch art market. Instead, they preferred highly naturalistic and detailed paintings that represented the reality of the everyday Dutch experience: landscapes, marine scenes, portraits, and scenes from everyday life (genre painting).

Jan Vermeer (1632-1675) is one of the most admired artists from this period. Despite his popularity, however, he is an artist that continues to captivate scholars: unlike his more prolific contemporaries, such as Rembrandt or Frans Hals, Vermeer is believed to have made only 35 paintings. Each one is a meticulously painted world of domestic quietude with women engaged in a variety of daily activities in rooms that are filled with light and shadow.

It's not surprising therefore, that Tracy Chevalier's novel, Girl With a Pearl Earring, was such a hit with readers. The author attempts to reconstruct the life and work of the elusive Vermeer. It is the power of these paintings and the mysteries surrounding Vermeer's talent that Chevalier's novel seeks to explore.

As in the book, the film's main character is Griet, a young Protestant Dutch girl hired as a maid in the Catholic Vermeer household. Through Griet's eyes we learn how the artist's home was overrun with children and the constant threat of mounting debts. But Griet also discovers that she is quite curious about the artist and his work. In addition to her housekeeping skills, we are asked to believe that it is Griet alone who possesses the artistic skills to gain Vermeer's trust in two enormously important tasks: the maintenance of his studio as well as the personal mixing of his paints.

It's highly improbable, that a maid (or any woman for that matter) would be given such important artistic responsibilities. No student research paper would dare make such an assumption, but for fictional and entertainment purposes it works. It functions as a good device for Vermeer to explain to Griet (and the audience) how he perceives the world he seeks to create in his paintings.

Nothing seems to escape the keen eye of Vermeer. In one scene Vermeer (played by Colin Firth) asks Griet (played by Scarlett Johansson) to describe the colors of the clouds she sees outside his studio window. To the eye of the average moviegoer gray clouds look just that-gray. But to Griet, the clouds appear anything but gray as she tells the artist that many other colors besides shades of gray can be seen amongst the cloudy Dutch sky. As a result, we learn something about the heightened visual acuity of an artist-to take nothing you see for granted, notice every detail of your surroundings.

Nominated for costumes, cinematography, and art direction, the film's strength lies in its ability to make Vermeer's beautiful paintings come alive before our eyes. One painting in particular, Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, is shown to us as Vermeer paints it. This is quite a thrill to anyone who knows and loves Vermeer's paintings.

It's evident that much attention was given to the study of Vermeer's work in order to achieve the last scene in which Vermeer poses Griet for his most famous painting, Girl With a Pearl Earring. It must have been exceptionally difficult to get every detail correct concerning the pose, light, and fabric. And the cinematographer does not disappoint-the result is stunningly accurate. For this reason the film is worth the price of a rental, if not the purchase of the DVD itself.

Girl With a Pearl Earring is now available on DVD. Visit Amazon to purchase your copy today!

Tracy Chevalier's Girl With a Pearl Earring web site

Visit Amazon for more information about Jan Vermeer
Vermeer: A View of Delft by Anthony Bailey

Johannes Vermeer by Arthur K., Jr. Wheelock (Editor)

Visit the Web Gallery of Art to see more of Vermeer's paintings (be sure to check out all the great details!)




Reviews -- Features -- News -- Events -- Store
Art Links
-- About -- Home

© 2004 Art a GoGo All Rights Reserved
Questions or Comments?
Subscribe to Art a GoGo Art a GoGo Home News & Events About Art a GoGo Art Links The Buzz On Art Art A GoGo Interview Reviews & Commentary Home About Art Links Store Events News Features Reviews