Italian Vermeer (Caravaggio)
|Medium:||Oil on canvas
|Size inches:||c. 32 x 28
|Size cm:||80 x 70
|Location:||Private Collection, Indianapolis, Indiana
Until now, many artists of our own time, including the Abstract Expressionists, have maintained that they drew upon their inner experiences for their own particular images. It was Hans Hoffman who urged students to express themselves in "pure" painting. Now, perhaps a new trend or direction may be appearing in contemporary painting and in it the painter either parodies wittily or sees through new eyes the images and subject matter of the masters of the past. (The) Deja-Vu exhibit (at The Dayton Art Institute), which boasts some big names in contemporary art -- Judy Chicago, David Hockney, Miriam Shapiro, Roy Lichtenstein, (Josef) Levi, Salvador Dali, George Deem -- reflects the unabashed manner in which today's painter refers to the past. ...(In) George Deem's "Italian Vermeer (Caravaggio)" ... Deem has managed to help himself to two Vermeers, two Caravaggios. The result is a fascinating Dutch interior with black and white tile floor, light streaming through leaded glass windows, all focusing on a young woman (sic) who has knocked over a chair and a water jug. On the fissured wall behind her hangs Caravaggio's "Entombment of Christ." ... The intensity of expression on the faces in Deem's painting is no less gripping than that depicted by artists of the turn of the 17th century. (Betty Dietz Krebs, "See it -- 'Deja Vu: Masterpieces Updated'," The Dayton Daily News, Dayton, Ohio, February 14, 1982
The preposterous history proposed here is not simply a postmodern act of quoting the past. It is from the historical Baroque -- but recycled for today -- that this principle of quotation is quoted in the first place. If taken not as an academic but as an anthropological case, the attempts to enshrine the "Baroque" as a historically delimited period must be seen, in addition, as a violent oppression that turns mirrors out of balance and knocks over chairs, or worse (Italian Vermeer (Caravaggio),
1977). Attempts to make it universal, alternating with Classicism or not, just because "it happens" again today, are equally violent, suppressing the fact that we, too, are in history. (Mieke Bal,Quoting Caravaggio:Contemporary Art, Preposterous History
, The University of Chicago Press, 1999. 267)
Italian Vermeer (Caravaggio)
Jan Vermeer never went to Italy. Vermeer did not paint in any Italian style, only the genre style of his country, Holland. References to Vermeer having visited Italy only come about because there is a certain look in Vermeer's painting that suggests the technique of 17th-century Italian painting. In the 17th century painting was similar all over Europe. It could be said that Vermeer went to France, look at Le Nain, at Georges de La Tour. In the 17th century the fine art of painting was fully established and from here everything in 17th-century Europe looks alike.
Sometimes there are paintings I get so involved with that I want to copy them, just to be there when the strokes are applied on, say, the red cloth, or the highlight is touched to the brow. One day Caravaggio came into my vision. I drew and painted Caravaggio compositions for a year until his images were burned into my head. It was like staring too long into a light. Each time I looked at a painting I saw a Caravaggio treatment.
The first draft of this painting has only the Caravaggio boy transplanted into the Vermeer interior. The boy is the dynamic child found at the right side of Caravaggio's painting The Martyrdom of St. Matthew
. The movement of the child is so intense that I decided to take away the rug that drapes over the table. I also eliminated the virginal that the woman is playing and the man who stands at her right. By now I knew that Caravaggio was coming strongly into the painting, so the first drafts of the Entombment
shows at the right side of the painting. Because something is happening the mirror is hanging crooked. The far window is ajar and in some parts the glass is broken out. I know the composition is to be filled with diagonals, so the chair has been pushed over and the bass violin has been taken away.
(In the second draft of this painting
) some of the mirror has been put back, but there are broken areas on the lower right. The windows are more realized, and the broken parts are more obvious. There are pieces of glass on the floor that have fallen from the broken window. The addition to this version is the box on the floor and the painting "Woman with a Water Pitcher" leaning against the wall upside down. The lower leaded windows are now green.
(in the third draft
) the floor is more realized therefore a lot of clutter has filled the left side of the room. The main piece of clutter is the basket of fruit from Caravaggio's painting "Boy with Basket of Fruit." The other clutter is from Vermeer sources: the cloth under the inverted painting leaning against the wall is the cloth from that leaning painting. It is blue. The box is also from that painting, as well as the large basin. The long broom is from another Vermeer painting. So far the rest of the clutter is not defined.
Color: The color in a painting has as much to do with transparent colored light as it has to do with opaque pigment dye and color choice. First the association of one color against another is an important part of qualifying a hue. Second, transparent glaze over or against an opaque area starts a spatial dimension. Next, light passing through and reflecting out again from the canvas or under-applied can cause results that cannot be imagined until a painting is at a nearly finished stage.
The artist must work rather blindly, with a mapped-out plan, to start any colored painting. When the image becomes itself the artist can then begin to allow the painting to start a very exciting communication. It's like making a garden. The plans are certain, but there is a waiting time when the plants must make the next step.
In colored light, if yellow is combined with green a turquoise light is made. That is why the painting is glazed with green blue. Any shadow has a nesting of turquoise under it. It is a cold painting of a room where things are not familiar with one another. This makes for a dynamic temperature as well as a visual dynamic construction. Caravaggio's images are exciting and are in movement. Vermeer's articles are settled and staid. Even though a chair has fallen, it is solid and settled. (Unpublished notebook entry, 1976)
In Italian Vermeer (Caravaggio)
I have introduced a destabilizing Italian Baroque element into the architectural order of Vermeer. For the interior I used Vermeer's The Music Lesson
(Buckingham Palace). I have altered the contents of the room; but not the architecture; i.e., I removed the virginal and the man standing beside it, and also Vermeer's rug from the table. Caravaggio imagery enters the painting on a diagonal from upper right to lower middle. Upper right: the painting in a black frame is Caravaggio's Entombment of Christ
(Vatican Museum). Next on the diagonal is a young boy running behind an overturned Vermeer chair; the figure is from Caravaggio's Martyrdom of Saint Matthew
(Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome). On the floor, just left of center, at the bottom of the picture, is a basket of fruit, a detail from Caravaggio's painting Boy with Basket of Fruit
(Borghese Gallery, Rome). All the other items and the furniture are from various Vermeer paintings; the picture leaning upside down against the wall on the left is Vermeer's Woman with a Water Pitcher
(Metropolitan Museum, New York). (Note written for the exhibition Deja-Vu: Masterpieces Updated, 1981
I am involved in a new painting in which Caravaggio and Vermeer will meet. I went to the Vatican Museum to look at Caravaggio's Descent from the Cross
and I made a list of Veronese's glazing color combinations: pink over alizarin crimson, pink over blue, yellow over orange (transparent yellow over cadmium red), pink over earth green (for candybox-top earth and sky colors). Veronese is the way to get to Caravaggio. ... It is cloudy today, no glare in the studio, so I worked on the black-and-white marble floor in the Caravaggio/Vermeer painting. The floor is beginning to hold weight ... New title for this picture: Italian Vermeer
. (George Deem, "Extra Genre," notes from an Italian diary, WhiteWalls A Magazine of Writings by Artists, #6, Chicago, 1981)