Vermeer's Camera: Uncovering the Truth Behind the Masterpieces

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Oxford University Press, 2001 - Art - 207 pages
2 Reviews
Art historians have long speculated on how Vermeer achieved the uncanny mixture of detached precision, compositional repose, and perspective accuracy that have drawn many to describe his work as "photographic." Indeed, many wonder if Vermeer employed a camera obscura, a primitive form of camera, to enhance his realistic effects?
In Vermeer's Camera, Philip Steadman traces the development of the camera obscura--first described by Leonaro da Vinci--weighs the arguments that scholars have made for and against Vermeer's use of the camera, and offers a fascinating examination of the paintings themselves and what they alone can tell us of Vermeer's technique. Vermeer left no record of his method and indeed we know almost nothing of the man nor of how he worked. But by a close and illuminating study of the paintings Steadman concludes that Vermeer did use the camera obscura and shows how the inherent defects in this primitive device enabled Vermeer to achieve some remarkable effects--the slight blurring of image, the absence of sharp lines, the peculiar illusion not of closeness but of distance in the domestic scenes. Steadman argues that the use of the camera also explains some previously unexplainable qualities of Vermeer's art, such as the absence of conventional drawing, the pattern of underpainting in areas of pure tone, the pervasive feeling of reticence that suffuses his canvases, and the almost magical sense that Vermeer is painting not objects but light itself.
Drawing on a wealth of Vermeer research and displaying an extraordinary sensitivity to the subtleties of the work itself, Philip Steadman offers in Vermeer's Camera a fresh perspective on some of the most enchanting paintings ever created.

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User Review  - NielsenGW - LibraryThing

There have been many times I’ve looked at a piece of art and wondered how they created it. From Escher’s mind-blowing drawings to Calder’s amazingly delicate mobiles, how artists engineer their art is ... Read full review

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User Review  - FPdC - LibraryThing

A brilliant book about the use of the camera obscura by the famous 17th century dutch artist. Steadman's argument relies heavily on the geometric reconstruction of Vermeer's studio, made possible by ... Read full review

Contents

The discovery of Vermeers use of the camera
25
Who taught Vermeer about optics?
44
A room in Vermeers house?
59
Copyright

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About the author (2001)

Philip Steadman is Professor of Urban and Built Form Studies at University College London. He trained as an architect, and has taught at Cambridge University and the Open University. He has published several books on geometry in architecture, and on computer-aided design. In the 1960s he edited and published Form, a quarterly magazine of the arts, and co-authored a book on kinetic art. He helped to produce four computer-animated films on the work of Leonardo da Vinci for an exhibition inLondon in 1989. He has also contributed to other exhibitions, films, and books on perspective geometry and the history of art. Vermeer's Camera is the product of twenty years' fascination with the Dutch painter.

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