Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Girl with the Pearl Earring - De Young Museum

The Girl with the Pearl Earring has come to San Francisco, and I got to see her at the De Young Museum! Going to museums and seeing works by great artists always has a renewing effect on me!

According to the signs on the wall, this painting is not a portrait of an actual person, but instead is a tronie. In other words, the artist was trying to capture a facial expression or historic character, but not the likeness of an actual person. (Wow, how disappointing for those of us who saw the movie, Girl with a Pearl Earring, starring Scarlett Johansson!)

Works by other Dutch artists of the same time period were also part of the exhibit. One thing that immediately stood out was the simplicity of this work. Many of the works by other artists were so highly detailed, it looked like the artists used a 3-hair brush, and maybe a magnifying glass. That was the predominant style of the day. While The Girl with the Pearl Earring was painted very simply, with wide brushes, few strokes and minimal detail. The pearl itself was painted with three brush strokes! The earring probably was not a real pearl, but a glass bead painted to look like a pearl.  

The Girl is the only painting by Vermeer in the show. She looks like she has just turned her head and is about to speak to us. There is a feeling of life and movement in the painting, and her gaze seems directed toward something to the right of us, which makes it even more mysterious.

The painting itself appeared much lighter than the picture above, and the skin tones looked somewhat chalky. The lights and shadows were both painted with cool colors. This gave the painting a modernist look. I wondered if the recent cleaning and removal of yellowed varnish might have changed it. But, I'm glad to have had the opportunity to see it!

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