Teller, the silent member of the comedic illusionist duo, Penn and Teller, is the director of a documentary about inventor and technologist Tim Jenison and his obsession to "paint a Vermeer." Jenison's attempt to recreate a painting by Johannes Vermeer, considered one of the finest painters of the Dutch Golden Age, began after years of admiration and research of Vermeer's photorealistic paintings. A book by David Hockney also added fueled to the fire with his theory that Vermeer painted with the help of optics. Hockney hypothesized that the Old Master used lenses or a camera obscura to create his famous, realistic paintings. Jenison decides to put Hockney's hypothesis to the test and obsesses over recreating Vermeer's painting "The Music Lesson" using the technology, optics and tools that Vermeer may have used to create a painting which in today's age, looks like a photograph. The painting is pictured above and the actual painting has a tremendous amount of detail. For a non-painter such as Jenison, who had little or no background in art, his project seemed doomed from the start but it was interesting to see if he could pull it off.
Jenison's tireless obsession takes him to Vermeer's home in Holland and to England where he examines the actual painting. Jenison takes the madness a step further by setting up shop in a warehouse in San Antonio, Texas to reconstruct the room in which Vermeer painted "The Music Lesson." Every object in the room is replicated and made by hand including the stained-glass windows and costumes.
|(L-R) Director Teller, Tim Jenison, illusionist Penn Jillette and producer Farley Ziegler. photo by Chocko|
I enjoyed the documentary immensely and found it interesting and funny to watch straight through. The film does not disrespect Vermeer or discredit his body of work, but it is an entertaining movie that raises some questions about creating art with the help of technology.
Penn and Teller, producer Farley Ziegler and the subject of the film Tim Jenison recently made an appearance after a press screening at the New York Film Festival. They also stayed for a Q&A which you can view below. Click with caution...there could be spoilers.