Monday, September 30, 2013

Girl With a Pearl Earring


It's the fifth Monday of the month, which means it's "who knows what Leigh will post about" day. :-) And the answer is, a trip to the museum.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Jonannes Vermeer (1665)
The High Museum of Art in Atlanta just closed its exhibit of pieces by Dutch artists, with the "headliner" painting Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer. My sister lives overseas but was home for a few weeks this summer. We planned a girls' trip one day and headed to Atlanta to see the exhibit -- my sister, mom, daughter, and myself.

It was my daughter's first trip to the High Museum, and practically my mom's too, since it'd been so long since she'd visited. It gave me deja vu from my before-kids days when I worked only a few blocks from the museum and always bought a yearly pass. Friends and I went to nearly every exhibit during those five years, and I loved every minute of it.

But ... back to this summer's exhibit and some of the things I learned.

  • A few of the paintings on display were quite large, but they were certainly the exception. Many were less than 24 inches framed, with some only slightly larger. The reason? Small paintings were much easier to travel with and trade to other collectors. 

  • I knew the paintings were old, but didn't realize how old. The artists were from the Dutch Golden Age, and all lived in the 1600s. Amazing to think I was standing in climate-controlled comfort admiring pieces that were meticulously painted 400 years ago! 

  • Many of the artists whose works were on display (Vermeer, Rembrandt von Rijn, Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Rachel Ruysch, and Jacobvan Ruisdael) liked to add a bit of red to whatever they painted, even when everything else in the scene was understated. They also would often add humor to their paintings -- like a man relieving himself right beside the road. And, of course, he was wearing a red coat. :-)

Girls' day at the museum
It was no surprise that the final painting in the exhibit was Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring. It was also small, though not the smallest piece on display. I loved it for its simplicity -- one girl, looking over her shoulder at you, against a solid dark background. It's quite different from all the other paintings there, which were full of action and all had some sort of props, even if it was just the ornate feathers on a woman's hat.

She's also a mystery because no one knows who she is ... she's dressed differently from other women of her day (not a common worker, but certainly not from the wealthy class) ... and only the wealthiest of women would have such a large a pearl earring. She looks like she's about to speak to you, and I'd like to know what she'd say.

I totally understand why she's often called the Dutch Mona Lisa.She captured me, and I don't know enough about art to be truly impressed.

All in all, it was a wonderful day with my favorite girls doing something I love -- stepping back in history for a while. Maybe it's time to renew that museum membership ...


PS -- After our trip to the museum I read Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. It tells a story of the girl, how she became Vermeer's model, why she had her head wrapped differently -- and how she came to wear the earring. Of course, it's complete fiction, but I still thought it was a plausible tale (with some interesting history woven in) and enjoyed it. I haven't watched the movie, but might try to find it sometime.Have you read the book or seen the movie? If so, how accurate do you think it was?

~ Leigh


4 comments:

Susan P said...

I love that painting. How fun to visit the museum. I have to sadly admit I have been to our local art museum only once. I hope to remedy that soon with my oldest daughter. :)
I have not read the book or watched the movie. I think I shall do that soon, also!

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