Beyond Gobbledigook

Johannes Vermeer, The Milkmaid, 1657. Oil on canvas, 17 7/8 in. x 16 1/8 in., 45.5 cm x 41 cm; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Posted in Oil on canvas by Jessica on December 10, 2009

Johannes Vermeer, The Milkmaid, 1657. Oil on canvas, 17 7/8 in. x 16 1/8 in., 45.5 cm x 41 cm; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Over Thanksgiving break, I went to New York City and of course, when you are in New York City, you have to make a stop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was only my second time visiting–and this time, I had a lot more time. What’s so great is that the Met is so busy, so full of life, with crowds of people walking in and out all the time. With more time, I realized how large the museum was and how much art it held–it was overwhelming (in a good way).

It is impossible to go to the Met for one day and even try to appreciate, or even simply look, at every piece of artwork. There were so many Courbet, Degas, Manet, Miro paintings that I had learned about, had never seen, and I wanted to give them each the time they deserved. And then, you also want to go to the special exhibitions. If I lived in New York, I would go to the Met every weekend to just stay in one wing or even just a few rooms to understand each piece of artwork.

The day before I was to go to the Met, I didn’t even know that they were holding a exhibition on Vermeer until my friend told me. It could not have been better timing–because it was the second to last day of the exhibition. I could not contain my excitement. To see a painting, in person, up close, by your favorite painter is not something you can describe.

Being so close to the painting made me nervous. I could see every single crack and it felt like the painting was just going to collapse right in front of me. But being so close also reminded me why I love Vermeer so much. His use of color is so vibrant. The blue in the milkmaid’s dress is no blue that you could find in a box of crayons, it is so bright and contrasts so well with the red that it immediately catches your eye. And his use of light is so delicate–slowly shading the back, white wall and subtleties of the light from the window hitting the milkmaid’s hand.

My favorite part of the painting is the bread. You could never tell from looking at a reprint online, but Vermeer paints the bread with single dots that blend together to form the texture of the bread. It is such a meticulous and delicate technique–but it makes the bread that much more real, more tangible.

The exhibition also had only a few of his other paintings. I loved seeing the cartography in the background of his paintings and it must have taken him so many months to just paint the maps, as they are so detailed. It was also just so great to see so many people in the small room, so eager to see all of Vermeer’s paintings. It was nice to be amongst people standing for more than five minutes to admire Vermeer’s beautiful work.

Other paintings:

Ilia Efimovich Repin’s Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin

What a great capture of a mentally struggling writer.

Norman Rockwell’s Town Meeting

It reminds me of my childhood, when I would look through my cousin’s oversized Norman Rockwell book. Doesn’t this painting just inspire you?



One Response

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  1. Jerry said, on December 10, 2009 at 9:24 AM

    i enjoyed the commentary :). and you’re absolutely right about Town Meeting. Strangely enough, I seem to think that almost all viewers of such a piece of art would consider themselves to be that person, and if not, certainly aspire to be him.

    The laborer. The one who doesn’t get it easy. The one who would have the courage to defend what he believes are his natural born right, never compromising.

    Anyway. Great post! 🙂


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