One of my favorite paintings by Vermeer is called The Astronomer. He painted it in 1668 and usually it hangs in the Louvre in Paris. It’s a gorgeous example of Dutch realism, or genre painting.
I was lucky enough to see it in person in 2009 when the Louvre loaned it to the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Paintings are always so much more beautiful in person.
Have you ever wondered what Dutch realism and blogging have in common?
OK, probably not.
But I was reading an interesting article about Vermeer by Alistair Sooke on BBC.com recently, and the parallels between Dutch genre paintings and blogging really struck me.
First a quick lesson in art history. Dutch genre paintings are basically paintings of everyday scenes painted in a ‘realistic’ style. Here’s another nice example, Vermeer’s The Milkmaid.
Don’t you love that basket hanging on the wall? And don’t you want to just take a bite of that delicious crusty bread?
I think when most of us look at a painting like this we assume we are looking at a realistic representation of life at the time it was painted; a woman pouring milk out of a jug in a seemingly utilitarian room with a simple basket of bread on the table.
But Sooke’s article explained that we would be wrong. Instead it would be more accurate to consider these paintings an idealized version of real life. The women are always beautiful, the lighting is perfect, the colors are rich and vibrant, the scene is very intentionally composed, that blue cloth on the table is draped just so. Sooke calls this the “unrealistic nature of Dutch realism.”
Of course the Dutch painters did this on purpose. Their goal wasn’t to provide a historically accurate representation of real life for future generations, they were trying to sell a painting.
Do you see where I’m going with this? The same can be said about bloggers today, myself included.
When I take photos for my blog I often wait until the light is just right.
I compose my shot with seemingly utilitarian pieces arranged just so, in colors that work well together. I try to tell a story with my composition. But if you think about, rarely would you actually have things arranged this artfully in your home all of the time.
And it’s not likely that I’m ever going to set up a beautiful dining table like this outdoors.
But it sure did look pretty for the pictures.
I find it interesting that in the almost 360 years that have passed since Vermeer painted The Milkmaid, not much has changed in this regard.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a fan of unrealistic realism. I like being inspired by pretty pictures that I see online, I just have to remind myself that I can’t expect my own very real home to look like that.