Penn Jillette and Tim Jenison Talk about the Making of Documentary, “Tim’s Vermeer” on Blu-ray & DVD Now!
In the fascinating documentary Tim’s Vermeer, out this week on Blu-ray and digital, Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in the art world:
How did Dutch master Johannes Vermeer manage to paint so photo-realistically 150 years before the invention of photography?
His epic research project takes him on an extraordinary adventure and Tim Jenison and the film’s producer and narrator Penn Gillette talked to me about how they created this documentary– which was truly an major trial of love!
In TIM’S VERMEER, Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in the art world: How did Dutch master Johannes Vermeer manage to paint so photo-realistically 150 years before the invention of photography? Spanning a decade, Jenison’s adventure takes him to Holland on a pilgrimage to the North coast of Yorkshire to meet artist David Hockney, and eventually even to Buckingham Palace. The epic research project Jenison embarks on is as extraordinary as what he discovers.
TIM’S VERMEER is a compelling documentary that follows inventor Tim Jenison as he tries to reveal the tools and techniques used by Vermeer to create his life-like works of art 150 years before the invention of photography. Jenison’s wildly ambitious quest stretches across the globe and culminates with his attempt at recreating Vermeer’s masterpiece, “The Music Lesson.” In the process something magical happens. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers raves, it’s “a stimulating detective story that holds you in thrall.”
During the late 1650s, Vermeer and other Dutch artists began to place a new emphasis on depicting figures within carefully composed interior spaces. Vermeer’s works are small and rare. Of the 35 paintings attributed to him, all of them are admired for the detail in which he rendered the effects of light and color. Little is known for certain about Vermeer’s career. His earliest signed and dated painting, The Procuress (1656), is thematically related to a Dirck van Baburen painting that Vermeer owned and that appears in the background of two of his own paintings. After his death Vermeer was overlooked by all but the most discriminating collectors and art historians for more than 200 years. Only after 1866, when the French critic Théophile Thoré-Bürger rediscovered him, did Vermeer’s works become widely known.
Tim’s Vermeer is not the first look into Vermeer’s likely use of optics in his works. Professor Philip Steadman (seen in the film) caused a sensation in the art world in 2001 when he published his book Vermeer’s Camera. Steadman investigated the suspicions of art historians who suggested Vermeer used a camera obscura, an optical device that could project the image of sunlit objects placed before it with extraordinary detail. However, Steadman’s experiment used a technique known as “reverse perspective” which produced startling results. He found that six of the Vermeer paintings he analyzed depicted the same room, the painter’s studio in Delft, and the geometry of the six was consistent with their being projected on to the back wall of the room using a lens and then traced.
These findings were not intended to challenge Vermeer’s genius but rather to show how, like many artists, Vermeer was able to use technology to paint his extraordinary compositions more accurately. Nevertheless, Steadman’s book caused a storm of controversy, dividing art historians while convincing many scholars in the history of science, technology, optics and photography.
This is my idea of a great documentary. It’s definitely in 2 -3 areas of content that I like to see or read about: art, photography and documentary films. If you are interested in great masters, Vermeer is one of the best. This documentary casts a new light on how he managed to paint with such accuracy about the light and more!
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