Today tutor Russell Squires posted an extremely fascinating post on the Facebook OCA Level 1 group. It is a presentation by Prof Phil Steadman from the UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources Department on a short synopsis of his book Vermeer’s Camera which was published in 2001.
In his presentation he shows that Vermeer definitely used tableaux for his paintings and highlights repetitive features that occur in several of Vermeer’s paintings. Most interesting though is the absolute detail that Vermeer captured in his paintings and he compared various pieces of furniture and other items that exist in museums to Vermeer’s paintings and found that the detail was practically a carbon copy. This led him to explore the possibility that Vermeer used a camera obscura to paint his masterpieces. He also figured out methods to determine the size of Vermeer’s studio. Tim Jenison, founder of NewTek, a company in San Antonio that specializes in special effects and visual imaging software read Steadman’s book and decided to recreate Vermeer’s studio to scale and try out Steadman’s theories. The results are stunning. By using a camera obscura and mirrors Jenison was able to recreate the tableau before him. What is important to note though, is Steadman’s remarks on the tonality of Vermeer’s paintings. Vermeer would never have been able to recreate the tonal graduations that occur in his paintings without the use of the camera obscura as the human brain automatically renders the colours to what we expect them to be.
A documentary movie has been made about this and I’m going to see if I can find out more about that. I’m definitely going to look in more detail at Vermeer’s paintings from now.
Lecture, Vermeer’s Camera and Tim’s Vermeer [webcast, online] Pres. Prof Phil Steadman, UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources, UCL Lunch Hour Lectures, UK, 10/03/2015. 41 mins. https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=2443&v=GFfmc4e7KgM (accessed 28/08/2015)