Vermeer: A View of Delft

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9780805069303: Vermeer: A View of Delft

In 1653, the artist Johannes Vermeer, the twenty-one-year-old son of an innkeeper, registered as a master painter with the city's Guild. He went on to enjoy a respectable local reputation as a painter until his death in 1675; it was not until the mid-nineteenth century, however, that his genius was widely appreciated. Today, Vermeer's thirty-five paintings are regarded as masterpieces.

In Vermeer, Anthony Bailey presents an intriguing portrait of Vermeer's life and character, long lost in history. Bailey re-creates the atmosphere of the times, introduces Vermeer's colleagues, portrays his domestic life in vibrant detail; he also 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.

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About the Author:

Anthony Bailey was a writer for The New Yorker for thirty-five years and has been called "one of the best descriptive writers of his generation" (John Russell, The New York Times). His twenty-one books include the novel Major André, two acclaimed memoirs, two books on Rembrandt, and most recently, Standing in the Sun, a biography of J. M. W. Turner. He lives in Greenwich, England.

From Publishers Weekly:

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 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Anthony Bailey
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