Vermeer and Networks of Influence

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The roped-off line leading up to the Vermeer exhibit reinforced the importance and hard work of curating an exhibit. Similar to the pushing crowds in front of the Mona Lisa, clusters of people formed around the Vermeer works, often impeding my view. However, when I did get the chance to experience his works up close, I was amazed at the vibrant colors, use of light streaming through the windows, and the meticulous brush strokes that were almost invisible. The digitized images I saw prior did not do these artists justice and although the paintings were smaller than I imagined, the attention to detail was immense.

Visitors of an exhibit often come with preconceived notions, which is evident from the clustering of people around Vermeer’s artwork. While the use of space and light make Vermeer’s work stands out, it seems the curator was trying to provoke the viewer to question the originality by comparing the same thematic representation of other Dutch artists. The exhibit allows the works of many other Dutch artists to be showcased alongside Vermeer, whom is recognizable by our national culture. It made me wonder if the curators intentionally were commenting on American culture in how we tend to focus on the “masters” – CEOs, celebrities, and outliers – while often denying credit to those who may have influenced them in the first place.

The network of influence transcends the viewer into 15th century Dutch culture, questioning the relationship between these artists. Were they in competition to be the ‘Rembrandt’ of their genre? Were they in unison commenting on aspects of Dutch life? How, where, and when did they communicate? Or were they just products of a larger culture that provoked them to start seeing everyday Dutch life as important enough to document? My last observation is that so many people had their iPhones out taking pictures of the art, themselves, and themselves with the art. Here is a Ted Talk that discusses the same phenomenon: