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Essential Vermeer Newsletter no. 29

Essential Vermeer Newsletters 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 /11/ 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 / 27 / 28 / 29 / 30 / 31 /32 / 33 / 34 / 35 / 36 / 37/ 38 / 39 / 40 / 41 / 42 / 43 / 44



Vermeer in Munich: King Max I Joseph of Bavaria as a Collector of Old Masters
17 March–19 June, 2011 - Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany
curator: Dr. Marcus Dekiert

from the museum website:
At the beginning of the 19th century, the first king of Bavaria, Max I Joseph amassed a private art collection of the highest quality. He focused almost exclusively on seventeenth-century Dutch masters, mostly landscapes and genre paintings. To these he added the works of contemporary painters in Munich who were inspired by such Old Masters. In December 1826, the private royal collection was sold at auction. From today's point of view, the greatest loss is a masterpiece by Johannes Vermeer: Woman Holding a Balance of 1664. This exquisite work is returning to Munich from the National Gallery of Art in Washington for a three month period. Surrounded by other exceptional paintings from the "Golden Age"—including works by Jacob van Ruisdael, Willem van de Velde the Younger and Philips Wouwerman—it gives visitors the opportunity to discover Max I Joseph of Bavaria as a collector of Old Masters.


The Golden Age of Dutch Painting, Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum
11 March–6 June, 2011
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar

Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) in collaboration with the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, presents The Golden Age of Dutch Painting, Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum, the first major exhibition of Dutch art in the Gulf region. It will take place in the temporary exhibition hall at the Museum of Islamic Art (see image of a museum opening left).

Forty-four paintings, among the best in the Rijksmuseum's collection are being loaned to QMA. These paintings give a wide-ranging view of the artists, lifestyle and topography of Holland in the seventeenth century. Included are works of Rembrandt and Vermeer's Love Letter.



Vermeer's Women: Secrets and Silence
October 5, 2011–January 15, 2012
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England

from the museum website:
At the heart of this visually stunning exhibition is Vermeer's extraordinary painting The Lacemaker, one of the Musée du Louvre's most famous works, rarely seen outside Paris and now on loan to the UK for the first time. The painting will be joined by a choice selection of other key works by Vermeer representing the pinnacle of his mature career, and over thirty other masterpieces of genre painting from the Dutch "Golden Age." Featuring works from museums and private collections in the UK, Europe and the USA—many of which have never been on public display in Britain—this Cambridge showing will be the only chance to see these masterworks brought together in one location. Four paintings by Vermeer will be displayed, three yet to be announced.

Dr Timothy Potts, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, said: "Vermeer's Women will be a rare opportunity to enjoy some of Vermeer's most ravishingly beautiful paintings of the intimacy of the Dutch household... this will be the first exhibition to focus exclusively on them, and to explore their hidden significance in terms of contemporary Dutch mores.


exhibition brochure:

Masterpiece a Month: Presiding Genius
Johannes Vermeer - A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman (The Music Lesson)
March, 2011
The Dulwich Picture Gallery

Vermeer's Music Lesson, too infrequently on public display, will be shown for the month of March at the Dulwich Picture Gallery as a part of the yearly celebration of the Gallery's bicentenary.

The Dulwich seems to be taking the web seriously as a viable route to reach out to potential museum goers. One the of most interesting features, still in its infancy but full of potential, is the Dulwich TV Channel.

Vermeer: The Music Lesson - 17th March
lecturer Desmond Shawe-Taylor

£10, Friends £8 includes a glass of wine

Bunkamura, Geographer

The Golden Age of Dutch and Flemish Paintings
from the Städel Museum
Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo
March 2–May 22, 2011

second venue:
Toyota Municipal Museum of Aichi
June 11–August 28
Aichi, Japan

After the exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Vermeer's Geographer continues its exodus to Tokyo and Aichi, then further overseas to Wellington, New Zealand and Melbourne, Australia. The Städel Museum in Frankfurt, which is currently closed for full renovation, assures it that all its paintings in the exhibition will be back home for reopening in late 2011 or 2012.



Communication: Vizualing Human Connection in the Age of Vermeer

Communication: Vizualing Human Connection in the Age of Vermeer
Kyoto Municipal Museum, Kyoto
June 25–October 16, 2011

second venue:
Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo
December 23, 2001–March 14, 2012

World premiere of Vermeer's Woman in Blue Reading a Letter after its restoration.



Map of Vermeer painting travels

The Traveling Vermeers Update: A quick skim over the exhibitions above will show you Vermeer paintings, or those who keep them in custody, have not even vaguely considered the option of staying put. I have made a brief calculation of all the trips Vermeer paintings have made since I began issuing Vermeer Newsletter in 2003 to the end of 2011 and came up with the near-astronomical figure around 300,000 miles, a pretty heavy environmental footprint (for the sake of detail, the treks of The Geographer and Woman in Blue Reading a Letter have not yet been calculated).

In case you were wondering, that would be more than a one-way trip to the moon. Most of the travel takes over the Atlantic Ocean or Siberia. The Great Circle, trans-Asia sorties to the Japan wind up very near the North Pole.

What would have Vermeer have had to say? As far as we know, he probably never traveled much further from his dear Delft than Amsterdam.


Gooogle Art Project


By now, just about everyone even remotely concerned with the arts has picked up news about Google's brand-new Art Project. The online giant serves-up 17 virtual tours of important art collections and over 1,000 hi-res images of their most representative works. Besides a few spoilsports, the press has greeted Art Project with unguarded approval. Google's vice president of engineering declared that the project would help do nothing less than democratize the world of art.

What's my take?…

Frankly, I'm not convinced that wheeling Google's hi-tech cameras up and down the hallways of revered museums will do any real good for the cause of art. The company's "street view" technology may work fine when you're looking for a drugstore near your hotel or a house to buy, but when applied to art sanctuaries, the outcome in my opinion is at best uninspiring (or as one critic wrote, "underwhelming"). For example, "street view" technology shows no mercy for the unique atmosphere of New York Frick Collection. Its gilt-framed masterpieces are transfigured into tacky, five-and-dime pictures while the bleached-out walls and windows recall nothing so well as the misfortunes of the astronaut in the final of Kubrick's Space Odyssey. Rather than coming to life, the great museums assume an unknown sense of emptiness.

The Google museum tour interface needs to be vastly improved or it will wind up getting more people lost in its mediocre visuals and confused about art rather than being an incentive to visit real museums.

On the other hand the high-resolution images of individual works of art, which average 7 billion pixels each, are the best that can be had. While no one, even Google, can pretend that a digital image ever succeed in replicating the material properties which are the heart of the real-life art experience, the Google images are the next-best-thing to standing in front of the real works, and miles ahead of those already available on the more forward-looking museum websites.

see Google's images of the six Vermeer now available:

The Love Letter

The Little Street

The Milkmaid

Woman with a Pearl Necklace

Officer and Laughing Girl

The Glass of Wine

But, how far are major-league museums willing to go? They sorely need the revenues produced by reproductions and art-related spin-offs. Why buy an expensive print for your room when you've got free Google images ten-times better on your desktop? Intangibles involved are involved in this deal too.

By associating with the world's most prestigious museums, some of their highbrow luster will rub off on Google's less-than-elitist corporate image. Until Art Project, Goolge's cheeky fine-art logos haven't inspired much more than a few lukewarm smiles.

But what's in the deal for the museums who are firing staff and de-accessing paintings to make ends meet? In fact, on this planet no higher prestige is accorded to an institution of any kind than that of the great art museums. Think of the Louvre. While there is no way of quantifying what benefits Art Project may yield, I'll put off celebrations before I see longer queues at the museums or more college students enrolling in art history.

My guess is that Art Project will remain trapped in cyber-limbo mostly because art museums comprehend very little about how to exploit the web and Google comprehends even less about art. Even the project manager of the Art Project confessed that he didn't really know much about visual art. I am not the only one unimpressed by the marriage of the museums brains and Google's brawns.

"What the Google Art Project does—and doesn't—mean for art."
Jed Perl - The New Republic

"Hype and Hyperreality: Zooming in on Google Art Project"
Ben Davis. - ARTINFO

Virtual Tour of the Courtauld Gallery


If you find Google's art tours of interest, please, please take the time to see what Synthescape, obsessed by quality rather than quantity, can really do with technology.

from the Synthescape website:
Using a new photographic technique, our virtual tour offers exceptional close-up quality and zoom roam functions. The extremely high resolution allows you to examine masterpieces such as Vincent van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear or Edouard Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergère closely. Explore minute details, such as individual brush strokes and the texture of the paint, as you travel through the galleries.

Vermeer-Related Presntation


The National Gallery of Scotland has done a succinct web feature on its Vermeer, Christ in the House of Martha and Mary with a video. Some of the museums are awakening to the immense possibilities that the web offers for art history-related applications although they still have sleep in their eyes. Better late than never.

Essential Vermeer Website Additions

Essential Vermeer Facebook


What does the global social network Facebook have to do with Vermeer? At first glance very little. Take a look at many of the art institutions' Facebook pages that tend to be one-way monologues with insignificant interaction. People's comments really don't seem to matter.

And yet the chance to bring the Vermeer community a bit closer might be worth a try. I have found Facebook surprisingly efficient for diffusing news rapidly and opening lines of quick, two-way communication.

So what can you do? Have a look, leave a comment and keep on coming I'll keep on plugging away for a year or so—the time necessary to evaluate any web initiative—and see if a marriage between social networking and art history makes any sense.

A Personal Message from Jonathan Janson: Essential Vermeer Funding 2011


Ten years of communication with the public and art specialists has convinced me that our vision of Vermeer and Dutch painting will be increasingly shaped by what we will read and what we will write about them on the World Wide Web. The internet medium provides extraordinary means for the art history community which has only just begun to be tapped.

My ambition is to make Essential Vermeer the most forward-looking art history website on the net.

It will continue to grow and offer new ways to explore the complexities of Vermeer's art and the art of his time. And it will continue to be free.

In order to materially implement the highest quality expansion, new tools are required. I need to update my hardware, acquire more flexible software, research material and pay for the costs of technical collaboration, hosting, communication and travel.

If you share my goal of making Essential Vermeer the one of the most important art resources on the net, please feel free to make a contribution. It will be greatly appreciated.

Jonathan Janson

To know something more about the goals of the Essential Vermeer website goals, please click on the link below.

PDF Goals & Philosophy of Essential Vermeer

It is not necessary to register with PayPal to make credit card donations.

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