Monday, August 14, 2017

A Quandary

This is my favorite painting by my favorite artist, Vermeer.

Johannes Vermeer, A Maid Asleep, c. 1656-7, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I love the soft light. The treatment of the facial planes. The subdued color. The off-center placement of the figure, and even the quirky perspective of the jug and fruit bowl. And what's going on with that chair? I never noticed that odd brown area; I've always been drawn to the figure and the background.

Well--- Years ago, before I figured out that loose, brushy art work was not my forté (with the possible exception of landscapes) I painted this:

Either/Or, © 2002,  (click on image for larger view)

Actually, I had done a much smaller version of it three years earlier, which sold very quickly, but I've always thought that the dark blank space was too large and blank. And I felt I could do a better job on the figures. Something more like the way Vermeer treated his maid.

I want to repaint this, so I've brought the painting upstairs where I can look at it often in an effort to re-think that background. I've also played around with several alternate background images in different layers in Photoshop. So far they all seem a little prosaic, and I've been surprised to see that they bear a resemblance to A Maid Asleep: open doorways with a glimpse of a room beyond. Once I noticed the similarities, I realized the upper left corner of my painting, with its shelf and cast shadow, and the door frame behind the figure on the left is also reminiscent of Vermeer's painting. And the figure, like his, leans to the left.

I wasn't thinking of A Maid Asleep when I posed the figures so long ago, but now that I see the similarities, I wonder about the seeming logic of using a doorway to an open room in the background. Am I going for an homage? Should I go instead for something completely surreal? What's the best solution for this problem?

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