Thursday, February 15, 2007

I’ve Decided To Find It Charming

Thank you everyone for the comments about yesterday’s post. Everyone made very good observations about the painting. I think had I commissioned this piece myself I would at least talk with her about trying to fix it. One thought was maybe adding a shrub in front of that lower bump-out corner that is going askew. I’m not sure if it would completely hide what’s behind it and it may just make things worse. I’ll leave it as it is, though. Once it’s framed and hanging it will become just like one of those little quirks that the real house has that I no longer notice.

Most of the little quirks of the drawing don’t bother me. It does have a folk art quality to it that I really enjoy. It reminds me of illustrations in school books I would read in the 1970s. I doubt I would be able to think of the name of the book if my life depended on it, or even what subject it was for that matter, but there was a book I remember that had water color illustrations very similar to this.

On the broader topic of art, I didn’t “Get” art for a long time. I tended to only judge things by whether I would hang them on my wall or not. I think I have fairly narrow tastes about what I would hang on my wall so a lot of art, paintings in particular, never appealed to me at all. When I started judging paintings on how they affected me on a more emotional level though, I started to see things differently. Now I’ve found that I can appreciate a lot of different styles of paintings and still not be willing to hang them on my wall. Is that odd?

When I was a kid my parents regularly subjected me to museums and other things of high cultural. Mostly I floated through them with the dazed look one almost always finds on the face of a preteen. If I had any interest in it I wouldn’t dare show it. It wasn’t until we went to The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in So. California that I had a sort of art epiphany. Specifically it was Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy.

The Blue Boy is almost known as much for being a pop icon as it for being a masterpiece by a great artist. When I saw it in person I was blown away. The thing is huge, to start with. It’s about 6-feet high and almost 4-feet wide. Beyond it’s size, it’s just a beautiful, beautiful painting. Later, I became captivated by Vermeer’s paintings. About 10 years ago I stumbled upon one of those oversized coffee table books with several of Vermeer’s paintings in it. It was at a book store and couldn’t put it down. At the time I couldn’t afford the book either so I never bought it. Every once in a while though, when I would be in that book store I would search out that book and spend some time with it. Vermeer’s Girl With Pearl Earring is probably his most famous painting, especially since the movie with Scarlet Johansson came out a few years ago.

I won’t try and give you any detailed analysis of Vermeer’s work because I would only end up sounding like a fool who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Not that that every happens to me {cough}, but there is something about his paintings that really have an effect on me. There are a series of paintings that deal with sort of everyday life that I really enjoy. They usually have a woman or young girl doing something very simple and almost always standing or sitting by a window.

Here are a few of my favorites. If anyone has a few million dollars laying around and you wanted to buy me a gift, one of these paintings would be perfect. Only the original will do.

Girl reading a letter at an open window

A lady writing a letter with her maid


Young Woman with a Waterpitcher

Officer and Laughing Girl

Woman in Blue

A Girl with a Pearl Earring

And the best of all - Woman with a Balance

The other style that I really enjoy are the animal paintings done by itinerate painters in the 18th and 19th century. I guess people really loved their horses and dogs and would have portraits painted of them. They have that kind of folk art quality to them that is similar to the painting of my house, only I think they are done much better. Those paintings are supposed to be realistic representations of the animal. It is a very pleasing style. Feel free to buy me some of those paintings if you happen to think of it.

Of course, there is also that up and coming young artist out of Arkansas that is all the buzz these days. Now is the time to buy his paintings because I’m sure they’ll be worth a fortune some day. His name is John something or other….I think there’s a Devil in his name, or maybe it’s Queen. Oh, who can keep track of these sorts of things. Just go buy his stuff.


StuccoHouse said...

Ditto the thought that your house painting has a cool folk art feel. It looks very nice.

One of my favorite paintings is Dali's Girl in the Window. For emotion, Picasso's Guernica.

STAG said...

Yeah...its a little off perspective. The far side of the house is too high...etc. But then, its not a draughting exercise...its art. The idea is to convey the "feel" of your place, and I think it does that just fine.

Back when your house was first built, people would come around to various properties, make sketches and try to sell finished paintings to the home owners. These sketches often form a priceless record of a community. Most that I have seen tend to be idealized "elevations", but many of them are very nice pen and ink drawings. And a few look remarkably like the painting you got.

purejuice said...

i had just that epiphany -- how much more i can enjoy if i don't have to own it/marry it/hang it on my all/wear it -- and it's fantastic.

i think you'd like anselm kiefer. who has a big exhibit at the white cube over at the UK. i'll get you the URL.

purejuice said...

John said...

"When I started judging paintings on how they affected me on a more emotional level though, I started to see things differently. Now I’ve found that I can appreciate a lot of different styles of paintings and still not be willing to hang them on my wall. Is that odd?"

Not at all. Actually, I would say that it is a pretty strong indication that you "get" art. One of the things that has always bothered the hell out of me, are the snotty art academics who spend a considerable amount of time belittling the average person's taste in art. There are a few exceptions to this, but most of the art history classes I had should have been called, "Why You Should Like My Favorite Artists or You're Stupid, 101." I think this attitude has a lot to do with why most people actively avoid art.

And, you may be interested to know that the next big, avant-garde movement in art is a return to the classical western painting techniques like Vermeer. Sure there are still people stuffing dead animals into glass boxes, but their time has past. If you can believe it, painting like Vermeer is an act of rebellion in a lot of art schools.

In any case, I really enjoyed this post. I've always thought highly of Vermeer, but I haven’t studied him nearly as much as you. Thanks for giving me a reason to revisit him.

And thanks for steering folks my way; if I end up rich and famous, I'll see if I can't steer one of those Vermeer paintings your way, an original of course.

Patricia W. said...

I love the way Vermeer portrayed light in his paintings. They never looked dark and depressing.

Kristin said...

Mmm, if I was fabulously wealthy I would have a John Singer Sargent ... or 12.

Jocelyn said...

I didn't comment but I would have kept the painting also. It does have a folk art feeling and I like that as well.

I think what you are describing about art is the best way to interact with it.

DPH Eaton said...

There is a new novel about Vermeer’s early years as an apprentice called FAITH.

In April of 1653, Joannis Vermeer married Catharina Bolnes. He was twenty and she just twenty-one. The marriage had been opposed for numerous reasons: He was still an apprentice; He had no money; He came from a social class which was beneath hers and he was not a Catholic. Still, their marriage endured until his untimely death at the age of forty-three. FAITH is the story of three winter months before his marriage, the most important months of his life. It was a time when his ideas about art, technique and 'reality' were being formed, ideas that would be developed and reflected in all his later work. FAITH is also a love story, a 'probable' love story since nothing is known about the artist's life during this period. The people and events around him in this story are real. There is nothing in this book that could not have happened. Most of it must have.

Available at

alicia said...

I'm mainly talking out of my arse to mention this, but Vermeer was a favorite of Proust, and Proust was obsessed with Ruskin, and IIRC Ruskin was one of the big names in the Aesthetic movement that gives you Eastlake etc., right? What I mean is, the same stylistic of Vermeer might has something to do with why you like your house and that period.

Greg said...


Well, if you are talking out your arse, that's some of the best arse talking I've ever heard. I actually think you have a very good point.

alicia said...

I have a very large arse.

I didn't even consult wikipedia, repository of all knowledge!!!

Well WIKIPEDIA does say that Vermeer was ridiscovered by an 1860s French art critic who published a big work on him. Woo-hoo!

(That almost certainly means that Vermeer played a cultural role in the 1860s+ French identity and esthetic and in the historic preservation movement. Woo hoo!).

This art critic liked Whistler too.

Ruskin was one of the English dudes to advocate the Gothic revival (1830s?), and went all gaga for the Pre-Raphaelites.

He didn't like Whistler.

So whatever that means.

Anyhoo, the re-discovery of Vermeer was one of many rediscoveries of Medieval-Renaissance stuff in France in the 1830s to 1870s (woo hoo!). Which is where Ruskin fits in 'cause he was one of the elitist re-discoverers.

With Vermeer, it's like Shakespeare. You are looking at him thru the lense of the 19th century romantics who thought he was worth looking at.

(IOW You can't have Shakespeare without having The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Three Mousquetaires).

I think.