The Rijksmuseum has assembled the largest number of Vermeer paintings ever
The biggest news so far for Tweetspeak’s Libraries & Museum Month: The hottest ticket on the planet right now isn’t a Taylor Swift concert or the March Madness Final 4. It’s the Vermeer exhibition in Amsterdam.
The Rijksmuseum has gathered together 28 of the 37 known Vermeers (four are lost; one was stolen in 1990) into one exhibition (Feb. 10 – June 4). Never have so many of the Dutch painter’s works been gathered together in one place.
But don’t buy your plane tickets for Amsterdam. The exhibition is sold out. And don’t rush to the museum’s online gift shop or Amazon to buy the English-language edition of the catalog; it’s sold out as well; Amazon is taking pre-orders for a new edition available in May. (The museum does has the French and Dutch editions available, however.)
But the exhibition has become a thing. The Netherlands has a hit reality TV show to create Vermeer’s missing artworks, using a wide variety of materials (like Legos). Research done for the exhibition has discovered that Vermeer’s patron was a woman who bought more than half of his works. When the Mauritshius Museum in The Hague loaned “Girl with a Pearl Earring” to the Rijksmuseum, it substituted a digital competition to replace it—and the selected winner created an online storm of controversy. And research is now suggesting that the girl isn’t wearing a pearl earring after all; perhaps it should be retitled “Girl with Not a Pearl Earring.”
This is all taken so seriously that it’s become great fun to watch it—at least for an amateur art fan of the artist like myself. And if you weren’t able to secure a ticket (also like myself), the Rijksmuseum has an online site of everything in the exhibition. And Artnet news has posted a story, with all of the artworks displayed.
Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) painted during the Dutch Golden Age. From about 1588 to 1672, Holland’s trade, science, art, and military were the most acclaimed in the world. The painters of the period include Rembrandt, Vermeer, Jan Steen, Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch, Jacob von Ruisdael, Carel Fabritius, Nicholas Maes, Aelbert Cuyp, and many more.
Vermeer lived in Delft. Moderately successful, he died fairly young at age 43, leaving his wife and children in serious debt. He was known for his interior paintings of Dutch life, but he also painted a few cityscapes, like “A View of Delft.” Compared to other artists of the period, his output was small. And he sank into artistic obscurity for the next 150 years.
In the 19th century, a French art critic and dealer, Théophile Thoré (1807–1869), “rediscovered” Vermeer. He promoted his works, published about him, and brought him to the attention of collectors and museums. And Vermeer became vastly better known than he’d ever been in his lifetime. Interest in his art soared.
My personal introduction to Vermeer was twofold. First, I saw the movie Girl with a Pearl Earring when it was released in 2003. We arrived what we thought was early for the showing at a local film festival. It wasn’t early, as it turned out; the only seats left were in the front row, guaranteeing stiff necks.
My second experience with Vermeer was in 2013. We had arrived in London for vacation on Sept. 7; Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure exhibition was closing at London’s National Gallery on Sept. 8. We went, jet lag and all. The rooms were darkened to protect the paintings, inducing a tendency to fall asleep while walking around, especially for the jetlagged.
But you can look at almost any Vermeer painting and discovery the poetry in the man’s work. His paintings tell stories, sometimes several at the same time. They may depict calm interior scenes of well-to-do Dutch homes, but many of them are filled with tension and surprises if you look closely.
Try It: Vermeer Poetry Prompt
The possibilities for poetic inspiration are almost limitless. Pick a painting and write a poem. Write a poem about the exhibition. Write a poem about what might have happened to the lost works, or the one stolen in the huge art heist from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; the museum is offering a $10 million reward. Write a poem about what the subjects of those paintings talk about when the museum closes each night. Or what happened to the pearl earring. Or a poem about what’s really going on in a painting like “Woman and Two Men” (just look at the facial expressions).
Then come back here at Tweetspeak, post your poem or a link to your poem, and help us celebrate the Vermeer exhibition for our Libraries & Museums Month.
Photo by andrew from sydney, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Glynn Young.
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish
- Poets and Poems: Marly Youmans and “Seren of the Wildwood” - March 28, 2023
- Poets and Poems: Sydell Rosenberg & Amy Losak and “Wing Strokes Haiku” - March 21, 2023
- Looking for the Poetry in Vermeer, a Blockbuster of an Art Exhibition - March 17, 2023
L.L. Barkat says
You made me laugh. 🙂
(And I DO want to go to the exhibit. Even so. Even though there’s no way to do that. A gal can dream. 🙂
Some years back, and I think it was 2013, we were in London on vacation and saw (collectively) four Vermeers. One had been loaned to the National Gallery, with the one they already owned. Another one was at (I think) at a gallery at Somerset House, also on loan. And the fourth was on loan to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. We were wowed by getting to see four in one trip.
I wonder how much scalpers might be charing for Rijksmuseum tickets? Another benefit of the Rijksmuseum is being only a block or so from the Van Gogh Museum, another incredible place.