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Tim's Vermeer (2013)

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Inventor Tim Jenison seeks to understand the painting techniques used by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer.


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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »





Credited cast:
Colin Blakemore ...
Philip Steadman ...


Inventor Tim Jenison seeks to understand the painting techniques used by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer.

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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some strong language | See all certifications »





Release Date:

3 October 2013 (USA)  »

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Opening Weekend:

$49,777 (USA) (31 January 2014)


$1,598,891 (USA) (18 April 2014)

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Can't wait to see this
2 January 2014 | by (Iceland) – See all my reviews

I am from Holland and I grew up with the Dutch masters as part of our culture. I also draw and therefore, as anyone, I have my idols in the field. I have often tried to compare Rembrandt and Vermeer, whom I would rank as the best 2 in art. My favorite, however, is Rembrandt. I will explain why, how this has a bearing on this documentary and how he differs from Vermeer. It is true Vermeer's paintings are super realistic, and have a beauty and tranquility about them. But I have often wondered if Vermeer used a mechanical method to make them. I consider his works more of a triumph of technique rather than art. Of course, no offense to the big fans - I am also highly impressed every time I see a Vermeer in one of our museums. But I cannot help thinking: is Vermeer a true artist or more an extremely skillful technician? Rembrandt could also reach the photo realistic resolution, which was typical for his early days. Of course no one of us were there, but it seems to me Vermeer had only one repertoire - that is to stick to the beautiful compositions before him. Rembrandt went further than 'just' the view in front of him. He magnified aspects, and left others out, making a picture of reality that we cannot find in the world, but nevertheless recognize. Just like a movie can be a meaningful slice out of life, but never is life. Like Shakespeare, Rembrandt used dark and light, as a metaphor for our short existence (flash in the darkness, life in the violent universe, you pick your metaphor). He also succeeded in painting mainly ugly people in such a grand way that they, just like in Shakespeare's plays, became just like mankind itself, somehow even more impressive, in all their hubris, flaws and limitations. Vermeer never reaches this level to me. Rembrandt versus Vermeer is like combining Wagner and Vivaldi in music, both skillful and both making great music, but Vermeer like Vivaldi seems to me not able to ever go further than the level of 'light entertainment'. With Vermeer art seems to perfectly imitate life, a stunning accomplishment for someone in the 17th century, with only 17th century tools! But Rembrandt gave human beings somehow a super reality, which to me is art being bigger than life. Rembrandt had not only skill like Vermeer, but also a vision, which for me raised the bar of what humans can do, how we see life, how in fact the universe reflexes on itself via our best art.

Rembrandt often changed style, which is also definite proof of his artistry and drawing talent. I would agree with Tim that Vermeer must have used mechanical devices to make his works. This explains his unchanged style, but also the fact that he only made 35 works or so. They must have taken a lot of time!

Tim is probably right in figuring out how, namely that Vermeer developed his style as forgerers do, probably with mirrors and other devices to mimic a photo as reference. There is only one 'but' - it remains for instance a mystery how Vermeer painted his View of Delft - I cannot see how mirrors would have done that job!

I cannot wait to see the documentary, it is original and the subject of trying to recapture the magic of old masters is fascinating. I know at least that when the Danae was destroyed in St Petersburg, even after 12 years of restauring, no one could recapture the golden haze emanating from the original. Rembrandt is impossible to copy, Vermeer is probably doable, that settles the case for me. It would be nice material for a sequel though, trying to paint a Rembrandt. Try 'Profetes Emma', his mother reading a book - it will take Tim forever probably, Rembrandt was only 25 then.

I have not seen the documentary but I love Tim's obsession and passion for art and doing things that seem out of reach. Even if the documentary would be disappointing, which I hope it will not be, it will be an ode to art. It will make us realize how fascinating it is to not know how Vermeer and Rembrandt made their stuff, did their magic, since we were not there. How wonderful their works remain to keep us amazed about human culture.

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