TIM’S VERMEER – Review by Susan Granger

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Fine art and technology combine in this fascinating documentary about how an obsessive amateur was able to recreate an astonishingly precise replica of one of Johannes Vermeer’s most famous paintings. Read on…

Magicians Penn and Teller introduce their self-made millionaire friend, NewTek computer graphics inventor Tim Jenison, who marvels at how the 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) was able to paint with a luminous, photographic clarity that rivals photo-realism, long before the modern-day camera was invented. Then – with no previous training in painting – Jenison was able to reproduce “The Music Lesson” in 1,825 days. How did he do it?

After reading artist David Hockney’s “Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters” and studying the mathematical calculations in architect/professor Philip Steadman’s “Vermeer’s Camera: Uncovering the Truth Behind the Masterpieces,” Jenison decided to explore American photographer Joseph Pennell’s controversial 1891 assertion that Vermeer was able to achieve his exceptional effects through projected optical images, utilizing primitive mirrors and lenses.

Directed by non-speaking Teller, Jenison chats amiably with Penn Jillette while demonstrating how his relentless research unraveled the mystery that has stumped scholars for decades. After learning to read Dutch, studying Vermeers in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, and visiting the artist’s hometown of Delft, Jenison recreates Vermeer’s studio in a San Antonio, Texas, warehouse, complete with window décor, furniture, rugs and costumed models. To insure accuracy, Jenison inveigles his way into Buckingham Palace to view the ‘original’ in the Queen’s private collection; grinds his own pigments, using only ingredients that were available to Vermeer; and spends months hunched over a 29”x25” canvas, squinting through a variety of lenses in the kind of camera obscura that Vermeer must have used. And every detail is duplicated with painstaking precision.

While art-history academics debate whether Vermeer “cheated,” it becomes obvious that Vermeer was one of the first ingenious artists to combine painting with technology, inventing new techniques.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Tim’s Vermeer” is an intriguing 8, delineating an experiment that should appeal to an art-house audience.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.