Monday, January 28, 2013

One of Our Best Dates!

One of the things that is fun to do in interior design is to take a painting of a still life or landscape and select something real that is depicted in the art and place it in front of or near the painting.  By doing this it lends an interesting three-dimensional quality to the vignette and draws the art piece towards the viewer.  A simplified example of this would be a painting of a rose garden on a wall and then selecting a vase of roses of the same color as one of the accessories on a credenza beneath it.  Well, we had a date that was something like that design principle this week.  What, you say?

The Girl With The Pearl Earring
Johannes Vermeer1632-1675

This week the preview for the exhibition of the 17th Century Dutch Masters opened in San Francisco at the De Young Museum.  The Centerpiece of this exhibit is The Girl With The Pearl Earring One of the best things we have done since we retired was invest to in an annual membership to the De Young and Legion of Honor fine arts museums of San Francisco.

 We have seen so many incredible pieces of art and have broadened our appreciation for the fine arts many-fold.  The price is $125.00 for our family and we can each bring two guests at no charge when we come and children under 14 are always free.  This is an incredible deal considering one visit for each of us would be $20 to $25 without the pass.  We have unlimited access and it has been so great.  What is even better is we can go when only 'the secret society of retired persons' is out and about and it is delightful.  Quiet, not crowded and a very well kept secret, indeed!

 It is nice that it is so close to home and not a rushy tourist trip with suitcases and more things to run and see.  It is leisurely and enriching and just plain fun to stop and view a masterpiece for as long as you like. This exhibit was our favorite so far although we say that every time we go.  If you live in the Bay Area you should consider going to see it (here until June, be sure to make reservations) and also becoming members if you enjoy this sort of thing. 

I have definitely found that the more you know about what you are looking at in the museums the more intriguing it is.  We knew a little about Johannes Vermeer's most famous painting but now we know more and I look forward to repeating this date with our daughters in a week or so.

Vermeer and Rembrandt were contemporaries and the art show has many of Rembrandt's famous etchings and some paintings as well.  This is the first time out of Holland for these works and the only show on the west coast for this exhibit.  It really is a once in a life time opportunity.  Or twice in our case. :-)

This era of painters focused heavily on realism and facial expressions.  Their art brought lots of evocative contemplation to the viewer.  You always feel like you'd just love to know what the subject is thinking.  The artists did a lot of pieces called "tronies" which were actually painting done as studies of facial expressions.  They were quite different than the more formal portraiture of the aristocracy. These study pieces brought the middle class to the foreground of the art world.

Most art experts feel that The Girl With the Pearl Earring is actually a tornie, raising the question of her actual existence or was she a composite of several models?  Which ever she is, she is very expressive and is known as the Mona Lisa of the North.  (Having seen both, we vote for this one!) The nice thing is that the painting has been photographed often with the paint cracking on her face.  In 1994 they painstakingly restored her and it is truly exquisite now.

 In 1999 a woman named, Tracy Chevalier, wrote an historical novel and came up with a very interesting story about the girl whom she named, Griet, and her life in Delft in the 1600's as a servant to Johannes Vermeer. He is known to have had 11 children, struggled for money to feed his family most of his life and did not have much notoriety until his later years.  Since little else is known of him and his life one must of course realize the book is fictional but you can tell a lot of work went into the research of the period and setting and the work itself.  It weaves a very intriguing and plausible story around this stunning painting that has received much attention over the centuries.   I remember having read the book years ago and enjoying it very much.

So we had a lovely time on our date and then that evening we went home, popped some popcorn and watched the movie, based on the book, that came out in 2003 and that we happened to have in our collection of DVDs.   So now you see what I mean about our 3-D date? We were absolutely amazed by how much Scarlet Johansson looked like Griet or the Girl With The Pearl, whatever her name actually was....if, in fact, she even had one.  We noticed that this movie has a minimum of dialog and much of what is conveyed is through facial expression alone just like the tronie it represents.

And yes, ladies...Mr. Darcy is in it. Colin Firth 
 Mmmm, hmm Sweet!

So there's your culture corner here on the blog for today.  It is not that often we come up with new and creative ideas for a date.  This one was perfect.  So three thumbs up: painting, book and movie!  Copycats welcome, you can even borrow our movie!  I hope you have enjoyed this look at The Girl!  Now if we could just go visit Downton Abbey see the that gigantic painting in person hanging in the dining room and have a chat with the cast......I can dream can't I?  Ah yes, I'd have some questions for Lady Mary and her Grandmama.


Sister Susie said...

When I first started teaching, I collected posters (in 1979)for my monthly themes. I had them laminated (and still have them today!) One of my favorites is "Blue Boy!" Now, you have me thinking, I need to use them in my house in monthly themes! Thanks for sharing this art lesson, Susan!

Jacquelyn Stager said...

Hello! I was visiting Nellie over at Nellie's Cozy Place and spotted The Girl with the Pearl Earring in her blog feed. I love this painting, I wonder if it will come anywhere near Ohio? I know the movie and book are fictional but I thought they were very well done and certainly transported me to another world and another time! Thanks for the interior decorating tip! I will give it a try! I'm not a decorator or an original thinker, but I'm a great copy-cat :) One of the things I do at Christmastime is use fresh cut greens roping and pine cones on my mantle, then add artificial berries or holly leaves. The contrast does add a 3D effect! Enjoyed your blog!