I stayed up late last night watching Tim’s Vermeer, Penn and Teller’s recent film about their friend Tim Jenison’s obsessive quest to paint like Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). Is Tim a painter? Not hardly. But he is a successful entrepreneur, computer graphics whiz, and inventor with an eccentric, restless, and brilliant mind. After reading in the book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters that perhaps Vermeer’s talent was perhaps augmented by the technology available at the time, Tim had to figure out what his secret was.
Vermeer’s art is acclaimed to this day for it’s photo-realistic reproduction of light. Strangely enough, x-ray scans of his originals show that they weren’t sketched beforehand, further deepening the mystery of how he was able to paint such life-like scenes.
Tim puts a ton of research, money, travel, and effort into figuring out Vermeer’s secret. Whether or not the method he finally settled on to paint was indeed Vermeer’s technique will never definitively be known, but Tim’s reproduction, the product of his grueling 6 year odyssey, is quite convincing:
Not bad for a guy with no previous artistic training!
Do yourself a favor and check out Penn and Teller’s brilliant documentary: