Vermeer A view of Delft

Anthony Bailey, 1933-

Book - 2001

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New York : Henry Holt and Company 2001.
1st ed
Item Description
"A John Macrae Book."
Physical Description
xiii, 272 p. : ill
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Anthony Bailey, 1933- (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Bailey, a prolific, polished, and avid writer, last portrayed the landscape painter J. M. W. Turner and now fleshes out the life story of one of the most revered and elusive painters of all time, Vermeer, the artist-poet of light, serenity, the interior life, and womankind. A nimble and entertaining writer,^B Bailey makes up for a paucity of documentation of Vermeer's life and temperament by presenting an energetically detailed depiction of the painter's world, both the city of Delft and his chaotic household, musing on the mystery of how Vermeer achieved the quiet, even holy, perfection of his paintings with 11 young children underfoot. Bailey muses on Protestant Vermeer's marriage to a well-off Catholic and theorizes that he took over his father's art dealership, used a camera obscura, and knew the pioneering naturalist Anthony van Leeuwenhoek. Dead at 43 with 35 masterpieces ensuring his immortality, Vermeer's influence on art, literature, and even war (see Bailey's lively account of how the heroic forger, Anthonius van Meegeren, fooled Goring with a fake Vermeer and rescued 200 looted paintings) has been cosmic. ((Reviewed April 15, 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Fluent essayist and New Yorker contributor Bailey (Standing in the Sun, LJ 1/99) gives a personalized overview of Johannes Vermeer, reading from the paintings to the man, and vice versa. Much of Bailey's factual underpinnings comes from the work of John Montias (Vermeer and His Milieu, 1989. o.p., and Artists and Artisans of Delft, 1982. o.p.), but he has a penetrating eye himself, and Vermeer, of whom so much is unknown, is a topic of perpetual interest. Organized around individual paintings, Bailey's essay begins with the great gunpowder explosion of 1654 and ends with the reverberations of Vermeer's art in the writings of Marcel Proust and the forgeries of Hans Van Meegeren. A meditative personal chapter follows, addressing Vermeer's seeming ability to stop time in his paintings. Bailey effectively retells much that is known about many of Vermeer's contemporaries, such as the scientist Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek, and speculates on his apparent Catholic faith in the Protestant Netherlands. Highly recommended for general collections and also for art history collections for its broad view and effective style. (Plates not seen.) Jack Perry Brown, Art Inst. of Chicago Libs. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Longtime New Yorker writer Bailey has been an extremely prolific critic and biographer (Standing in the Sun: A Life of J.W.M. Turner, etc.). This study of the 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer and Vermeer's times is his 22nd title. Highly dependent on books by specialist scholars like Albert Blankert and Svetlana Alpers, this overview also repeats a lot of the local color as evoked in splashy recent evocations of the Dutch Golden Age by the bestselling Simon Schama. Less posturing and operatic than Schama, Bailey constantly repeats the formulations "may have" and "might have" until the reader becomes aware of how little is still known about the mysterious Vermeer, who is widely considered one of the greatest painters ever, although only a few dozen of his works survive. Speculations even extend to humdrum details of whether or not Vermeer owned a pet, without focusing on the ultimate question of how this apparently dull and ordinary Dutchman created immortal masterpieces of art. Sometimes a little more historical context would be welcome, such as when Bailey criticizes the "ignorance" of 19th-century historian Jakob Burckhardt for dismissing untalented artistic imitators of Rembrandt, when it's generally well accepted that far too many 19th-century painters were dreary Rembrandt wannabes. The liveliest pages record the fondness for Vermeer of villains from Hitler to thieves from the IRA. Heavier on history than art appreciation, this fluent if unoriginal summing up of some current themes of Vermeer study will appeal to non-art historical readers in search of a journalistic compendium of the subject. Illus. not seen by PW. (Apr.) Forecast: With the blockbuster Vermeer retrospective more than a few years gone, and the Bailey name less in evidence on the New Yorker's pages, this book will have to rely on Vermeer enthusiasts searching it out. Yet Tracy Chevalier's popular fictionalization of the Vermeer household, Girl with a Pearl Earring (1999), shows they may do just that, and the book has few recent, generalist competitors. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The dramatic story of Dutch master painter Jan Vermeer is told against the backdrop of the "golden age" of Dutch culture in the seventeenth century and offers a compelling portrait of Vermeer's life, his artistic career, and his influence on the history of Western art. 17,500 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The story of Dutch master painter Jan Vermeer is told against the backdrop of the "golden age" of Dutch culture in the seventeenth century and offers a portrait of Vermeer's life, his artistic career, and his influence on the history of Western art.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Set against the dramatic backdrop of the "golden age" of Dutch culture, the story of one of the world's most beloved -- and most elusive -- painters.In the seventeenth century, industry and commerce thrived in the Dutch city of Delft, as did art and culture. In 1653, the twenty-one-year-old son of an innkeeper, the artist Jan Vermeer, registered as a master painter with the city's Guild. Vermeer married well, had many children, and enjoyed a respectable local reputation as a painter until his death in 1675. But it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that his genius was widely appreciated. Today, Vermeer's thirty-five paintings are regarded as masterpieces.In Vermeer, Anthony Bailey presents a compelling portrait of Vermeer's life and character, long lost in history. Bailey re-creates the atmosphere of the times, introduces Vermeer's contemporaries, and portrays his domestic life in vibrant detail. Drawing on period documents and his own intense curiosity, Bailey sheds light on the science and artistry behind the glorious, almost mystical, paintings. Meticulously researched and elegantly written, Vermeer will stand as the classic work on Vermeer for years to come.