Sunday, November 27, 2011

Edward Hopper House Art Center

Had a mini-revelation yesterday. On a totally intuitive level I now "get" Edward Hopper. It happened as I was looking out the bedroom window where Hopper slept for his first 18 years. Hopper fell in love with that view and never recovered. It really is that simple.

Yesterday with my family I went to the Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, NY, the birthplace and boyhood home of Hopper. It's right on the Hudson River just north of New York City. Slated for demolition by the city fathers to make way for a parking lot, a more far sighted group of citizens fought to preserve the home as a historic site. They won and in 1971, five years after the death of Hopper, the home opened as a nonprofit art center. They place is drippingly historic, lovingly preserved, and worthy of a visit from anyone seeking a deeper grasp of Hopper's art. 

Recently Rachael Solomon, the Program Director at Hopper House, invited me to show a group of the paintings I've done during my residencies in the "other Hopper House", the studio Hopper lived in half of each year on Cape Cod from 1934 almost until he died in 196.7. They'll be on display in the Nyack Hopper House this Spring.

That's me above grinning ear-to-ear yesterday in Hopper's front yard. It's just a block from the Hudson River, that source for America's first indigenous painting movement, the Hudson River School that has been such a motor force in my own painting.

Below is the view looking out Hopper's front door to his porch where my wife Alice (left) chats with my daughter Louisa.

Turning around here's the view into the house from the front doorway with the main hallway opening up  to the left to the living rooms now used as the main exhibition galleries for the Art Center. At the far right is the railing for the stairway leading up to Hopper's bedroom.

Here's Hopper's stairway viewed from the second floor.

I met and had a great talk with Arthur Gunther, a photographer and long time Trustee of Hopper House who was so kind as to open up Hopper's bedroom for me to see. It's normally used as a workroom by the staff, but they hope to restore it and open the bedroom to the public in the future. Art told be they still have Hopper's bed. The door still has the original lock on it and Art needed to do some serious fiddling with it to get its worn parts to open for us.

Below is one of the three windows inside the bedroom.

And walking up to the window here's what Hopper saw daily as he grew up, the view looking due East to the banks of the Hudson River. 

That view really got me, especially the light dancing across scene. I too grew up in a house with a water view, in my case Lake Ontario just East of Rochester, NY. Living up to it's name as one of the Great Lakes, Ontario was vividly wide open and very wild much of the time. In contrast to Hopper's view of Nyack, a busy boat building town in his time, my view of the water was framed by steep hillsides, heavily covered with a mature beech tree forest. I think Hopper's life long attraction to sunlight shining on architecture and on water stems from just his experience of this view. That I looked daily instead at an all natural view of Lake Ontario is the biggest single reason I've focused my own painting on images of wilderness. 

Artists all have "first impressions" of the world- the images that imprint really deeply in their minds. These are something they fall in love with for the rest of their lives. Look out Hopper's upstairs bedroom window and you have literally a window into his soulful world. 

Here below is Alice and our niece Jenny (right) gazing out the bedroom's next window over to the right

One of the oils Hopper painted (years later) that immediately came to my mind as I looked out the his window was this stunning view of Gloucester Harbor (in MA). Like his boyhood view, it too makes us climb over a roof or two before we can see the water and the ships. That he could paint it so well testifies to how he could reach down into his memory and back in time to when the whole world looked fresh and amazing to his young child's eyes.

Here's another Hopper that looks like a scene he must have seen from the river's edge many times.

Early on Hopper did paintings of his home. Here's one the Whitney Museum has now painted right there in his bedroom in probably 1905 or '06. Note the doorway at the left.

Here's the same spot yesterday afternoon.

I will be posting some more photos and comments on the Hopper House in a few days. In concluding right now one last thought struck me yesterday. Hopper's home was lovely but it wasn't extraordinary. Quite modest in scale and with a water view that was great but not more remarkable than what one can see in almost any town. It was Hopper's eye and fertile imagination that extracted from his early years the   thoughtful temperament he needed to produce those hundreds of paintings that are so widely loved today.

Any Hopper lover would have a ball coming to Nyack and visiting the terrific Hopper House Art Center. It's not fancy, just as Hopper wasn't, but it shares his straightforward poetry. Walking around the Nyack neighborhood you'll see building after building that will seem familiar to you from his paintings.

What Hopper is telling us is to open our eyes not to what is waiting for us in some exotic distant location but right now where we are. The magic is there, right in front of you concealed perhaps in what seems most  commonplace. With the right eye, the right point of view and the right light, Hopper shows us the exceptional hidden right in our own neighborhoods.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

News from an Angel

Here's an angel announcing to Mary that even though she hasn't had sex she's going to have a baby who is the son of god. All things considered, she's taking it pretty well. Next time you have something to tell me could you please enlist an angel as your go-between? Especially one that looks as cool as this one. Usually I just get emails these days.  

I don't usually look at Renaissance painting very much, but I ran across this Botticelli Annunciation this week. I love it  and have been having the best time drinking it in. 

Admittedly both the figures take somewhat unexpected poses- the angel kneeling and extending his upraised hand with his fingers splayed out. And Mary bending her knees so oddly to the right. Is she curtsying, swooning, or what? In the hands of a lesser painter these two figures would look ridiculous but here they seem self assured and absolutely right. The empty space right between their outstretched hands looks like they're feeling the surface some mysterious and invisible sphere with their fingertips.

Anyone who has ever tried to paint hands will immediately realize Botticelli sweated bullets to get the hands and arms just right. To him this was an important story and he was determined to nail it no matter how many times he had to draw and redraw his figures. His overarching commitment to making his painting the best it could be has set the bar high, very high, for us painters who have to follow him. 

There's a lot of reasons for Botticelli's success. He makes each part of the painting have its own unique personality (for example the busy ruffled robes of the angel are consciously played off against the more restrained smooth garments wrapping around Mary). She seems elegantly sculptural. One of the most beautiful accomplishments of the painting is how Botticelli paces himself, alternating between energized and tightly patterned surfaces (the robes and the plants for example) and purposely empty surfaces (like the cool grey walls). Botticelli knows when to let your eyes rest. 

A lot of what's great about this painting is the intrinsic expressiveness of how the artist painted his silhouettes and chose his colors. It's easier to see the abstraction of his composition with the image turned upside down. Looked at this way, it's easier to forget what you are looking at and focus instead on how those forms have been painted. As you begin to do that, you begin to enter the artist's mind.

Botticelli was probably deeply religious and telling this bible story was critically important to him on that level. But even today for viewers who might not share the artist's theology, there is a remarkable emotional and human depth to the painting. I believe it affects us so because as the artist worked he got in touch with those parts of his psyche where his most profound feelings resided. Through long efforts, clear eyes, and a remarkable openness to his own heart, Botticelli made something that speaks to us all these centuries later.

Many years ago I was given a fantastic lesson by one of my instructors about how artists like Botticelli composed their paintings, I can't remember which Renaissance painting it was, but my instructor took a reproduction like this one and, turning it upside down, started tracing with a ruler some of the hidden diagonal trajectories the painter had used to organize his composition. 

As a beginning artist I had been used to looking at paintings the way most people do- by identifying the objects and the figures. As the instructor looked and drew, a doorway started to open for me on a whole other way of seeing. My teacher was revealing to me another world of relationships between forms. He was helping me to see the nearly invisible choreography a painter has to use to pull their many forms together. He showed me that the painter knew the dance steps necessary to make power happen in a painting.   

I don't paint literal annunciations like Botticelli did. But studying (and most of all enjoying) paintings like this one taught me a mountainous amount of knowledge. Some of it I can put into words, which is why I do things like teach painting and write blog posts like this one. But there's another level to color and composition that's deeper and can only be reached by relying on one's best intuitions. And discovering art you love puts you in touch with those heightened intuitions.

Below is the design for the announcement card Saginaw Art Museum will be mailing out to publicize  their show of my landscapes, Unbroken Thread. They reproduced my oil Ascension.  It owes a lot to my looking at the highly structured paintings of the past master painters like Botticelli. Look at the network of streams intersecting the low valley and how their rhythms are contrasted against the verticals of a few carefully placed trees. This is exactly the kind of language I learned from Botticelli as he played off his bending figures against the wonderful vertical geometry of his window frame and floor tiles. 

I didn't used to think and see in this way. Looking at art taught me how to do it. Botticelli started a thread than wound down from his paintings, through the marvelous work of the Baroque painters like Rembrandt and Vermeer, to the wonderful American masters like Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper. Looking at someone like Hopper, I can pick up that thread and wind it through my paintings like the way my rivers wind through Ascension. And I'd be honored to think some young artist is going to look and my painting, and pick up that same thread once again. It's a long thread, very long. Who knows where he or she will head with it next.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Unbroken Thread Exhibition Heads Out to Saginaw Art Museum

One of the galleries in the Saginaw Art Museum

The art shippers came today and loaded 50 of my paintings onto the largest truck in America. They're taking the traveling exhibition Unbroken Thread: The Art of Philip Koch out to the Saginaw Art Museum in Michigan for its Dec. 9 opening (the show runs through Feb. 19, 2012). You can see a preview about the exhibit  that Midwest Gallery Guide magazine will run in its December issue on the "News" page of my website. I'm excited to see the work in the Museum's big spaces.

The "Thread" from the exhibit's title runs back into my history and into American art history. It's a thread that ties me to the American landscape painters from the past, especially the Hudson River School. The impact their art had on me in my early days can hardly exaggerated. 

Arriving in 1970 at my graduate program in painting at Indiana University I was burning with excitement to become a "real" painter. I'd mastered some hard won drawing and painting skills without a clear idea of where I wanted those skills to take me. Some of my first paintings upon arrival were attempts to paint imaginary planets. As I hadn't spent much time on such worlds these early oils were a real jumble. 

Amazing as it seems to me now, at the time I had no idea what 19th century American landscape painting looked like. Fortunately the Indiana University Art Museum had a few excellent examples,
in particular a to-die-for little John Frederick Kensett coastal scene. Intrigued by that one oil painting I rummaged through the school's art library and found not only other great Kensett's but lots of other painters who spoke to me. Looking back what I was responding to was how much these old American landscapists had painted a world that looked ever so much like my boyhood home on the shore of Lake Ontario right outside of Rochester, NY. 

I didn't really want to paint just like these old guys- they could be too dark and way too detailed for my eye. But these paintings had something else- a remarkable emotional connection to places I felt I knew well. The lake shore by my house was cold and rocky and could easily be mistaken for coastal Maine, one of the favorite subjects of the  Hudson River School. And they had painted every corner of the New England forests. I'd grown up right next door to New England in upstate New York and those forests hadn't stopped at the state line. They blanketed my hilly neighborhood.

Most of all what I'd been looking for was a tradition I could personally relate to. These painters had painted a world that felt deeply familiar in a way my imaginary worlds never would. They put a strong steady new wind in my sails. It has taken me far.

Here's one of the pieces I sent off today, West from Monhegan,  oil on panel, 28 x 42", 2009. It's the island 12 miles off the coast of Maine that has been painted by so many of a later generation of American  artists- Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent, Robert Henri, George Bellows, and so on. This is the view looking back from Monhegan Island towards the mainland mountains near Camden, ME. 

For the last 15 years or so I've adopted the practice of the older Hudson River School artists of basing my oil paintings on plein air drawings I do on location. As long time readers of this blog know, I never use photography as a source. Others can employ the camera, but for me it drains some of the magic of the experience. Working just from drawings and memory allows me to be free from the constraints of the actual observable colors that confront you. 

Here's the drawing I did standing next to Monhegan's one room school house that served as my source for the above painting.

West from Monhegan, vine charcoal, 8 x 10", 2006

Another painting in the Museum show is Otter Cove, oil on canvas, 44 x 55." Otter Cove is a spot on the Atlantic side of Mount Desert Island. It's a place Thomas Cole and Frederick Church knew well. 2008 and below that is the vine charcoal I drew at Otter Cove that inspired the larger oil. As you can see, I like to move trees and islands around.


Mt. Desert Island,  vine charcoal, 7 x 14", 2003

Both of these two charcoals were packed away in these heavy cardboard boxes along with the 33 other smaller works headed for the exhibit . Here they were this morning patiently waiting for the art shipper to arrive. Now that they're gone, boy does the studio seem big again. Guess I'll just have to paint something.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

How Charlton Heston Made Me an Artitst

Charlton Heston as Michelangelo painting the Cistine Chapel ceiling.

Sometimes at an opening reception people come up to me and innocently ask me how I became an artist. I don't ususally tell them about Charlton Heston. Sometimes the oddest things provide just the right nudge to get you moving on a new path. So it was with me and Charlton.

I came from a family of academics and was groomed to be a college professor. In the fall of 1966 I entered Oberlin College in Ohio certain I was headed for a career as a sociologist or an historian. No doubt about it. To prove my seriousness I had signed up not only for Sociology 101 my very first semester but also dutifully enrolled in an Art History survey class to get the requirement for graduation of a course "in art or music" out of the way. I was going to clear the decks so I could get serious about my budding sociology or history career. As luck would have it, my Sociology class was taught by a shy and awkward instructor who sheepishly confessed the first day that this was the first class he had ever taught and to please bear with him. Sadly, he was awful as a teacher. Following his meandering lectures wasn't for the faint hearted.

Much to my dismay, I didn't like any of my classes that Fall except for the art history class. While I'd always drawn cartoons for my friends, I'd not taken art in high school and knew zero about art history. But it was a little like going to the movies as they'd show you a couple dozen slides of paintings every class as they lectured. It was fun to pick out my favorites and which I felt didn't measure up. 

In mid October I was camped out one night in the Library writing my first twenty page Sociology term paper and it was going badly. The spirited enthusiasm with which I'd started the class had drained away and I had no idea what to say about the assigned topic. I think I'd managed to write page eight when I couldn't take it anymore and threw down my pen. I had to get out of there. Spontaneously I decided to take myself to the movies. For a chronically disciplined academic over achiever like myself to do this on a "school night" bordered on treason. 

Oberlin, Ohio was a small town with a one screen theater. As it turned out, the feature playing was a really dreadful Hollywood adaptation of Irving Stone's leaden novel about Michelangelo, The Agony and the Ecstasy starring that icon of all things masculine, Charlton Heston. It was pretty bad. Mostly Charlton would grip his brushes extra hard as he painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling to make his biceps stand out impressively. And he sweated a lot. 

One particularly cheesy scene stood out. Frustrated with the progress of his work, Charlton climbs a mountain and, reaching the summit,  has a revelation as the clouds overhead transform themselves to reveal to Michelangelo the composition of The Creation of Adam section of the Sistine Ceiling. Renewed, Charlton scrambles back down the mountain and finishes off the ceiling to universal delight.

Sitting alone in the theater watching all this I felt at once both embarrassed at the obviousness of the plot and yet fascinated at the idea of an artist working with his imagination to come up with the imagery to create powerful paintings. To its credit, the film did show lots of close ups of Michelangelo's remarkable figures. I was eighteen and hungry to put some drama into my own life. And nobody from the Renaissance did drama better than Michelangelo. I left the theater and walked back to my dorm in the rain with the germ of a new idea in my head. I could be an artist. I didn't tell anyone about my experience that night as I still needed to mull over my feelings. But within a few weeks I'd made my decision, and changed all the classes I was signing up for in the next semester to include both of the College's introductory studio art classes.. I was setting out on a new voyage.

That was forty five years ago and I've painted every day since then. That Charlton Heston played a part in making me an artist isn't something I tell most people.  So often when I'm making a painting I get the new idea I need to pull its composition together at an unlikely time or from an unrelated source that catches my eye. That the icon of the American firearms industry gave me that little push over the edge into the world of art has a delicious ironic touch to it. What the heck, art and artists are supposed to revel in the unexpected visions and the overlooked opportunities. So I'll take all the help I can get, even from a  Hollywood B movie.

You'll excuse me but I've got to get back to flexing my biceps and sweating profusely in the studio...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Should a Normal Person Read a Blog About Art?

Philip Koch, The Reach III, oil on linen, 40 x 60", 2011

Here's another of the big oils that will be debuting in the Maryland Institute College of Art's Sabbatical Exhibition Dec.1- 18th. It's an elaboration on a vision I explored earlier on two smaller oils. You might say it's an image I can't get out of my head. There's a good reason for that. It's a painting about how I learned to be an artist.

From the time I was eight until I reached twelve my father used to love to go sailing on Lake Ontario at night and he'd take me along. As a kid I confess I found nighttime a little scary so I was never as enthusiastic to go on these voyages as my father. Sometimes it was so dark what we were doing was probably foolhardy. Usually though, once your eyes adjusted, you realized there was surprising illumination. If the moon was out it bathed you in its quiet twilight tones. Sailboats are slow and unless it was  blowing really hard there's often not much to do. So there was lots of time to look around. I discovered moonlight reflecting on clouds might be the most beautiful thing ever. Once we were out on the water I'd often find myself thinking "Gee, I'm glad I didn't miss this."

All of us get distracted by the pressing concerns of living, having a job (or not having one), health, relationships, and so on. Our public media pays attention to part of this, but only part, usually turning their gaze to the doings of the wealthy and powerful. Celebrities get praised for being famous. The art world isn't immune from this- witness the headlines about Sotheby's latest art auction bringing in several hundred million. But the real deal isn't any of this.

Why has every human society ever known had people who produced art? Sometimes I've wondered why they tolerate us at all- we artists can be self absorbed, egotistical, flaky, and far too often produce work of questionable quality. An awful lot of art is in fact confused or incoherent. Is there any member of the general public who hasn't wondered if artists are normal people? So why do they keep us around. Why should anyone care what an artist produces, or just as bad, what an artist writes about on an art blog (perhaps like this one)?

I like to joke with my students that artists have to become slow-witted. That we have to develop the habit  of lingering on the edges of things longer than "normal" people. It's because we have a special job- to notice the stuff that everybody else overlooks. Most things aren't really very important of course, but almost everything deserves the second look to see if we've missed something. And humans miss things of value all the time. I remember reading about the painter Andrew Wyeth and his habit of looking at the ground as he walked.  He told one interviewer that he liked to stop and pick up leaves to examine their color. "I see colors in some leaves I'll never be able to paint- it's maddening." Here was a guy who turned his awareness to the most subtle of qualities in fallen leaves, and he was able to turn what he learned there into some of the paintings that move millions of people.

My dad passed away shortly after those "night sails" as he liked to call them. My mother used to think he was nuts to go out on Lake Ontario in the dark. It wasn't the normal thing to do. And yet it taught me a terribly important lesson- that there is usually something unseen that we have yet to notice. And often it's something we need more of in our lives.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ghastly Music

Years ago we lived near a house where an eager teenage garage band of five boys would practice daily. Actually they weren't that near, they just played really loud. At 200 yards you couldn't miss their distinctive sound. Each of the five was determined to take the lead all the time and would amp up their part trying to drown out the guy next to him. You had no idea what parts were important and what was supposed to be the backup. They were just awful. I had to paint with the windows closed to stay sane.

Above is the new large oil I'm including in the upcoming Sabbatical Exhibition at the Maryland Institute College of Art's Dec.1- 18. It's Horizon, oil on canvas, 40 x 60." Begun last summer, I had it all blocked in with the initial layer of paint completely filling the canvas. Then I had to turn to other paintings to complete them for other shows and only returned to this canvas a few weeks ago. So it rested in my basement art storage racks for a few months.

Good things happen when you lay work aside for awhile. You forget some of your original thinking, sometimes enough to let a new and better idea to creep in.

The small oil study on which this composition was based had very intense yellows throughout the sky- not out-of-the-tube intense, but right up there nonetheless. Returning to work back into the large canvas, I began by laying in the sky. Almost immediately I noticed my earlier initial band of yellow in lowest section of sky was much less intense than I wanted. It looked timid and tentative.  I was going for bold skies- you know, dramatic, assertive, masculine, daring, etc. 

Figuring I'd get to intensifying that area soon enough I busied myself with the upper sky and the water's reflections for about two weeks. Their color got gradually ramped up in intensity and contrasts.That's when things started shifting on me. 

You know you're on to something in a painting when you find yourself absentmindedly returning to gaze at the same area over and over again. In this case it was that left-over too faint yellow strip at the bottom of the sky. What was happening was that the painting had developed along a different path, one that was right next to the one I thought I was on but leading to a different destination. The story had become about the drama between subtlety and sharp intensity- bright yellow playing off against a pale cream yellow. It was just too good to pass up, so I changed gears.

To give the pale section of the sky some extra impact I went back into the larger yellow sky and darkened it everywhere (in the process easily using up twenty bucks of cadmium yellow pigment). Against a darker (though more intense) yellow sky the light cream-colored  strip would have something it could sharply contrast against. 

Artists get into tricky waters when they work with something subtle. If you fail to make your choices look deliberate, the subtle things can read as indecisive and vague rather than elegant in its restraint. Good art is really the dance you do between forcefulness and using a light touch. Too much of just one and the whole thing goes down the tubes.

I don't know what happened to our band of youthful musicians. One day they mercifully just stopped playing. Paintings can look like that band sounded with every color reaching for the spotlight. As individual pigments coming out of the tube they're just lovely in their pristine intensity, but corralled together they're a mishmash like those terrible green musicians. I'd like to think that band just got a new practice space and began listening to their overall sound instead of just their own parts. I do know when I've fallen into being aggressive everywhere in a painting I'm working on I start to hear the echos of their songs. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Secret from Vermeer

I know there's something wrong with the image above.

It's a good thing to turn things on their head from time to time- impossible problems in life and in painting sometimes will offer up a solution once looked at this way. My wife the psychotherapist often tells me a big part of what she doing with her patients is just helping them see their problems from another angle. Above is Vermeer's iconic Girl with a Pearl Earring standing on her head for us (artist's models back in the 1600's were much more dedicated than today and were will to pose like this). Here below she's righted herself again for us. 

I often turn my paintings upside down to study them with an eye towards improving them. You notice the relationships differently. It's guaranteed you will see something you've not seen before. I want to make a couple of observations about Vermeer's portrait as a companion to the comments I made about the same painting in my previous post.

When he painted this one Vermeer was in touch with the sitter, the space of the room, the light, the textures of skin and fabric, the play of colors. Probably more by intuition than by conscious design, he gradually pushed and pulled his image in a thousand little adjustments until it felt just right. To me this is one of those paintings where everything seems exactly as it has to be. I'd like to talk about just one seemingly small aspect of the painting's composition Vermeer uses to make us feel the this woman's depth of personality.

Especially upside down, the intensity of the white collar is striking. Almost always a move that emphatic is going to find a responding echo somewhere else in the painting. Look carefully at the collar and follow its curve up from the woman's front at the left to where it straightens out to a gradually rising diagonal line about at its middle point. From there on over to where it disappears at the back of her neck it has a more or less straight line trajectory that runs exactly at 90 degrees to the straight far right outer edge of the falling yellow scarf.

This is not an accident. Painters for centuries have placed diagonal lines in their paintings and related them to other diagonals that are positioned exactly at a right angle to their first line. Without realizing what they are seeing, the viewer emotionally senses the connection between the woman's white collar in the middle of sitter and the far right edge of her costume. Vermeer convinces us that this is the only possible head adornment this woman could ever wear.

I believe this is hard wired into our psychology. Perhaps it stems from our need to intuitively grasp for right angle relationships between the flat ground and the vertical axis we make when we stand erect. When you were one year old and struggling to take your first steps unaided, you felt great when you didn't tumble back down to the floor. To stand and walk you had to internalize a mental picture of your body's vertical axis standing at a 90 degree angle to the floor. While out of your conscious awareness, this learned new skill gave you a new power to walk and later to run. It made you feel powerful and safe. What's not to like?

I believe we search out ninety degree angles all the time as we scan a painting. Naturally we see them all over in vertical walls and horizontal table tops- no surprise there. But when this angle is found between two diagonal lines, where one wouldn't be expecting it, it brings a little surge of excitement and feeling of well being. It feels a little like finding  you've got an extra twenty stuck in your wallet you'd forgotten about.

Should an aspiring painter start inserting "these diagonal lines at right angles" devices all over their paintings? No. But very often as you are working you will find this relationship hinted at in the forms emerging on their canvas (this goes just as much for abstract work as realist painting). As you become aware of this tendency consider how it could be accentuated to heighten the response in your viewers' eyes.

The woman's collar and scarf probably didn't at first line up the way they did at the end. Vermeer like any painter moved things around, tweaked this and that, worried a lot, and finally arrived at this wonderful painting. My guess is he was both inspired and very stubborn, determined to discover the precise arrangement of his forms needed to deliver the emotional impact he so wanted. That he was so in touch with the expressive potential hidden in his composition is a great gift to us who have come after him.

Vermeer and the woman who sat for him are long gone from us. But then there is this mysterious painting that quietly radiates with its glowing light. In a way it feels almost more real than anything else I encountered today. Vermeer is gone, but something he set in motion with this woman 350 years ago still moves us today. Let's enjoy this painting, but let's also learn some of its secrets.