Old Masters Reproductions by Thomas Baker

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Girl with a Pearl Earring, an oil painting by Vermeer, reproduced by Thomas Baker

Reproduction of Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Thomas Baker

16 X 20 inches, oil on canvas

This painting is available for purchase

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I reproduced this painting for the same reason I did those of other Old Masters: to try to gain insights into how they mixed their colors and handled light, and then attempt to carry those lessons over into my own paintings. On this one, I had to resist an impulse to give the poor girl some eyebrows, which she seems to have lost somewhere. Eventually I decided to create my own Girl With a Pearl Earring, which I am doing right now. Mine is getting eyebrows.

Aside from their considerable beauty, Vermeer's paintings, like those of the ancient Therans, the tomb art of the ancient Egyptians, and the wall murals of Pompeii, are invaluable to archaeologists and historians as records of daily life during a particular period of history, in this case seventeenth century Europe.

Vermeer (1632-1675) lived and died in the small town of Delft in Holland, producing only some forty oil paintings during his lifetime, of which perhaps thirty survive. He left no drawings, sketches, or writings, and little is known of him at all aside from his paintings, which celebrate mainly women and domestic interiors. Nor is anything known of the woman who was the subject of this painting, although a purely imaginary novel was recently (1999) written about her (The Girl with the Pearl Earring) which was then (2003) made into a movie (described by one critic as "a speculative account of the life of Griet, a 16-year-old girl who appears in Johannes Vermeer's painting of the same title. Set in 17th century Holland, Griet is employed by Vermeer as a housemaid to care for his six children, his jealous pregnant wife and his uncommunicative mother-in-law. Tensions arise when Vermeer's wife suspects intimacy between her husband and the girl--and then climax, when the wife discovers that Griet borrowed her precious pearl earrings to sit for the now famous portrait.)"

Which shows that this painting is not only beautiful but capable of causing some people's imaginations to run riot, especially writers of romance novels.

The movie's advertising poster reproduced the painting photographically, but added a man breathing into the girl's ear:

At one time or another, in one place or another, nearly every aspect of this interesting painting has been analyzed in exhaustive detail.

Technical advances in painting were proceeding apace as Europe emerged from the Dark Ages following the fall of Rome and the other classical civilizations. Paint itself was still a valuable commodity in Vermeer's time--artists still had to grind their own pigments (or have apprentices do it for them) and mix them with oils, but new devices such as the camera were being invented to make life a little easier for the painter. At this stage of its development the "camera obscura" could project images onto glass, so that the artist could trace them, but there would be no way to capture and hold these images until light-sensitive chemicals were invented 150 years later. Vermeer is thought by many art historians to have used the transitory images of the cameras of his day as an aid in his painting, but it was not until the eighteenth century that painters such as Renoir and Sargent had the convenience of photographic prints (although only in black and white) for use as aids to their painting. Sargent was thus able to paint portraits of deceased people from their photographs, and Renoir also painted a number of his portraits from photos furnished by his clients, supplying the color from experience and imagination. Many other painters did likewise and still do so today, with the additional advantage of color photography.

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