A Study of Vermeer

Front Cover
University of California Press, 1994 - Art - 217 pages
1 Review
We respond so intensely to Vermeer, suggests Edward Snow in this landmark study of the artist, because his paintings reach so deeply into our lives. Our desire for images, the distances that separate us, the validations we seek from the still world, the traces of ghostliness in our own human presence - these are Vermeer's themes. Whether his paintings depict a remote view of the everyday life of a city, an intimate exchange between a man and a woman, or a solitary figure absorbed in some familiar activity, their quiet realism is in dialogue with the uncanny, and has the power both to estrange and reassure. Scenes like A View of Delft can make us feel, in Snow's words, "either that we are in the hands of God or that all passes into oblivion, either that we are weighted down or weightlessly suspended, either that the world is there beneath our feet or that nothing exists beyond the moment of perception." As the author traces the elaborately counterpoised sensations that make up Vermeer's equanimity, he opens our eyes to a depicted world where nuances proliferate and details continually surprise. A Study of Vermeer, first published in 1979 and here presented in a revised and intricately enlarged version, is passionate and visual in its commitments. Snow works from the conviction that viewing pictures is a reciprocal act - symbiotic, consequential, real. His analysis of Vermeer's paintings are focused on details and conducted in a language of patient observation; at the same time they bring the act of looking to the viewing threshold, where imperatives of distance-keeping mingle with fantasies of crossing over and taking apart. Such close attention to the paintings involves the reader in anexperience of deepening relationship and ongoing visual discovery. A Study of Vermeer has been designed to facilitate this process: over eighty illustrations, fifty-nine in color (including two full-page foldouts), accompany the text so that the details under discussion will be

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Woman in Her Bath Sponging Her Leg
i4 Woman Holding a Balance
i8 Gentleman and Girl with Music
Couple with a Glass of Wine detail
Girl Asleep at a Table

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About the author (1994)

Edward Snow is Professor of English at Rice University. He has published interpretations of Velasquez, Bruegel, Marlowe, and Shakespeare, and has translated three books of Rilke's poetry.

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