Kids Cafe Art Lectures: Vermeer and the Camera Obscura

I had a lot of fun with this one. I had originally learned about Vermeer and the Camera Obscura after watching a documentary about a modern guy from Texas (I think) who recreated a Vermeer painting, The Music Lesson, using just that technique. If you are interested in art or art techniques, I highly recommend it. It was amazing really. I got to share my love of Baroque art, tricky really when you consider a lot of that type of painting is full of naked women and men and we’re trying to keep this PG rated. I’d love to do a presentation on Rembrandt! With this lecture, I learned a lot about the camera obscura (aka the pinhole camera) and how to create your own DIY version and once I finally figured out how it worked, I was blown away. Sadly I didn’t get to share all the cool things with the kids because of time. I didn’t get to play the snapshot memory game, which would’ve been fun. I didn’t even get to use my camera obscura. We ended up using Vermeer coloring sheets, which was a total cop-out after the interesting lecture. Oh well.

KC Jan Vermeer and the Camera Obscura – April 17

Vermeer - Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, c. 1664-65

  • Biography of the Artist
    • Born Oct 1632 (aka Johannes Van Der Meer) in Delft, a rich trading city near the coast in Southern Holland
    • Son of a silk weaver/art dealer who owned a tavern
    • Admitted to the Painters’ Guild in 1653, when he also became a master painter
    • He liked to paint in yellow and blue
      • The Lacemaker
      • Johannes Vermeer. The Lacemaker. c.1669-1670. Oil on canvas, 23.9 x 20.5 cm.

        Johannes Vermeer. The Lacemaker. c.1669-1670. Oil on canvas, 23.9 x 20.5 cm.

        • Domestic scene of a lady creating a small piece of lace
  • Contemporary Painters
    • Vermeer’s work is part of the Baroque style of painting, which encouraged natural realism and dramatic use of light and shadow; other famous Dutch Baroque artists included Frans Hals and Rembrandt van Rijn
      • Franz Hals – Jester with a Lute, 1620-25
      • Frans Hals - Jester with a Lute, 1620-25
      • Rembrandt van Rijn – Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, 1630
      • Rembrandt - Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, 1630
  • Influences on Dutch Baroque Art
    • The new wealth of the merchant or middle class also affected the style of Dutch Baroque art, as this was the primary patrons of Dutch artists
      • The new middle class used the paintings to show off their wealth, which is why you have paintings with oriental rugs, fancy clothes, jewelry and musical instruments
        • The Music Lesson
      • The Music Lesson, 1662-65
      • Vermeer - The Music Lesson,1662-65
        • We have a young woman getting a music lesson from her instructor. She is playing a virginal, a keyboard instrument related the harpsichord. The virginal is painted with flowers and sea horses. There is an oriental carpet on the table. There is viola da gamba, similar to the lute and guitar.
  • Camera Obscura
    • Vermeer was obsessed with optics and his paintings were created with a filmless version of the modern camera, called the camera obscura
    • Using a series of lenses, this machine lets the viewer isolate and focus on a single subject with incredible clarity.
      • Show example of camera obscura
      • Science behind Camera Obscura
      • Camera Obscura2
    • Paintings Where He Used the Camera Obscura
      • A camera obscura was probably used for his painting ofThe Girl with the Pearl Earring and his ten other paintings showing pearls.  Clues of this are the soft, blurry edges of the portrait and the magnification of the close up view.  Officer and Laughing Girl also shows signs of the assistance of this tool with lenses.
  • Officer and Laughing Girl, 1656-60
  • Vermeer - Officer and Laughing Girl, 1655-60
    • Painting shows a young girl talking to and flirting with a young officer; a map of Holland appears in the background
    • You can see the way Vermeer used the camera obscura with the way he showed perspective (objects in front are larger the ones in the back) and the way it almost looks like a photograph
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1665-67
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring, oil on canvas, 1665.

    Girl with a Pearl Earring, oil on canvas, 1665.

    • Eleven of the women in Vermeer paintings wear pearl jewelry.  He enjoyed painting the effect of concentrated light reflecting on these jewels, and 17thcentury Holland, pearls were probably an extremely important status symbol.  This is the most beautiful pearl in all of his paintings.
    • The model may have been his daughter Maria, who was about 12 or 13 yrs old
    • Vermeer spent too long on his paintings, he died bankrupt Dec 1675
    • 1st Activity: Snapshot Memory with Vermeer Paintings
    • 2nd Activity: Make my own version of Camera Obscura to share with the kids
    • 3rd Activity: Vermeer coloring sheets
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