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VERMEER, BEYOND TIME

What to know: Rich in detail and history of Vermeer's work and the time in which he lived.
Recommended age 12-18
90 minutes
DVD
PBS DISTRIBUTION
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I enjoyed the juxtaposition of seeing Vermeer's paintings and scenes of modern day Holland, as well as museum goers viewing and admiring his works in the museums of Europe today.

Vermeer, Beyond Time is a documentary film portraying the interesting life and work of the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. Today he is admired and loved for well- known paintings such as "Girl with a Pearl Earring," "The Lacemaker," "Girl by an Open Window" and others.

Narrated by well-known actor, comedian and musician Steve Martin who weaves a story of the trials and tribulations that Vermeer experienced in his short life. He died in 1672 at the age of 40, destitute and desperate.

What I found extremely interesting and was unaware of, is that after his death, twenty years later, in 1696, twenty-one of his works were sold and then disappeared for 150 years. They were discovered later, in the middle of the 19th century. Admired by masters of his time such as Rembrandt, Peter de Hooch as well as the writer Marcel Proust, he never got to see the fruits of his creative labor.

Born in 1645, Vermeer came from humble beginnings. At the age of 21, he married into wealth and his marriage changed the course of his life. He fell in love with an older woman very different from him, had 15 children and a mother-in-law who was instrumental in his career. His life was imbued with his family of women.

Yet in his paintings, there is an element of mystery as he was known for silence, solitude and thought in his approach. When one looks at his paintings, it's as if time disappears. Historians wonder why he painted so few pictures and yet for those known today, people are extremely passionate. His paintings tell stories and represent symbols of a society in Delft, which had a leading economy and was the richest city in Europe at that time. This is known as the golden age in Holland, as people were creating their own culture.

Vermeer had an intense engagement and admiration for women, and his paintings portray them in a refined manner. He painted elegant women and men of learning, and introduced musical instruments into many of his paintings.

The film explores his techniques and approach in great detail. One of his paintings created in the golden age of 1657-8, called "Little Street" is discussed as an exercise of the mind. It is suggested that perhaps the artist reinvented reality by imagining and creating a house as the central character, with a woman doing needlework, a servant girl cleaning the yard and a small boy and girl at play.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 15 to 18 as well as adults. Those who are into art and art history and who want to know more about Vermeer's technique and the time he lived in will particularly enjoy it. It is rich in detail and history of that time. This film is available now on DVD so be sure to check it out.

Reviewed by Terry S., KIDS FIRST! Juror.

Vermeer, Beyond Time explores the life and work of one of the most loved, influential, and well-known artists, Johannes Vermeer. Images from his paintings have become part of our collective imagination and are instantly recognizable.
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