A painting by Vermeer blew into town the other day and we stopped at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts Saturday morning to see it. Wow!
There aren't many Vermeers in existence, and they're all worth an extended look. The composition, the luster of the fabrics, the perfect tones (which suggest a natural source of light, usually coming from a nearby but unseen window), the remarkable highlights (take a look at the studs on the chairs), and the often mysterious atmosphere of the event being depicted (what does that letter say? Did it arrive unexpectedly? Is it significant that the woman is pregnant?) create an effect that defines some sort of limit as to how much life and beauty a static image can convey.
After examining the painting at length in the company of six or eight other people and reading the poem "Vermeer" by Tomas Tranströmer on the wall next to it (interesting...but less interesting than the canvas itself) we wandered the third-floor collection of European masterpieces, but came upon nothing comparable. Even the splendid Chardin still-life in the museum collection seemed a little lackluster. This may explain why Vermeer was forgotten for two-hundred years.
The canvas that struck my fancy most strongly was an early landscape by Claude Lorrain. (What you see above is merely a chunk of it.) In the museum text we're told that here Claude is at the "height of his promise." Now there's an odd phrase for you.
Several other exhibits looked interesting but we were on our way to meet some friends at the Aster Cafe for a Bluegrass Brunch with the High 48s. From there it was down the hall to the St. Anthony Main theater to see Selma.
Don't let the LBJ controversy keep you away. It's a powerful film depicting a crucial episode in American history.