Vermeer: The Greatest Exhibition (trailer) is an Exhibition on Screen film by David Bickerstaff that may flit through your community—catch it while you can. It showcases the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of the paintings of Jan Vermeer currently on view at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. A great many American art lovers planned a trip across the Atlantic to see it. A great many more were disappointed, because tickets to the exhibit’s four-month run sold out within days.
The film shows you all 28 paintings in the show and is packed full of interesting details about the life and times and the artistic accomplishments of the painter. It leads off with two of his landscapes, and you don’t see any evidence of growing mastery as time wears on. It’s as if he was a genius from the first moment he picked up a brush. Maybe he burned all his early work, who knows?, but there are only 34 (Wikipedia) or 35 (film website) surviving Vermeer paintings. This is the largest assemblage of them, ever.
The commentary by art experts is engaging and adds a great deal to the film. They talk about the lack of brush strokes, the yellow fur-trimmed coat you see in five different paintings, he frequency of (different) maps in his backgrounds, the light blue outline on the back edge of the jacket in “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter.” (You probably won’t actually see it in the photo above; the big screen gives you that detail. What you may notice is a bit of vibration against the background. It’s an optical effect.). What struck me is how the subjects look as if they might turn and speak to you at any moment. I think it’s the slightly parted lips on many of them that cause them to appear actually breathing.
Of course, seeing the paintings in person would be an unforgettable thrill, but on the big screen, you get a much closer view than you might in person! Without the jet-lag. And no crowds.
Find a screening near you. (Be sure to select your country.)