the unrealistic nature of blogging.

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.

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20 thoughts on “the unrealistic nature of blogging.

  1. Argh….figures you post this when I am relegated to using my phone for comment! (Awaiting to be prepped for a medical procedure). You have touched on a subject I love. While Vermeer and the Dutch masters haves always left me breathless, in recent years the Wyeth family (N.C., Andrew and Jamie) have captured my heart. (I saw the Helga exhibit in person many years ago and nearly wept and tried to find a way to steal even one of the canvases, lol). That a man’s eye and hand could create such majesty on a simple canvas….I nearly weep now at the memory. But the point is, – unrealistic realism – yes and no. These images, both the Dutch Masters and Wyeth brought such dignity and insight into the everyday. There is beauty in everything if the eye will only see it. Simple bread (Vermeer) or a plain woman in heavy clothes leaning against a tree (Andrew Wyeth) is the art of the everyday which we overlook. Beauty is everywhere but we are seduced into believing it exists only in exclusive formats. Look closely at the person behind you in line at the grocery store (or in the surgical suite, lol) and you will see beauty. Ah. Off to lovely sedation! Thanks for the post today!

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    1. Well Ruth, you have given me one more review that tells me I really need to go to see the Wyeth museum along the Brandywine in PA.
      I now want to go there to see the museum, to visit the Battle of Brandywine historical park, and to play the Brandywine disc golf course!

      That’s the magic number three, it’s officially on my list!

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    2. You are so right about Wyeth. The High Musem in Greenville, SC has had an exhibit for several years. Capturing beauty require the ability to recognize it in it’s plethora of forms.

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  2. I have always loved the Milkmaid and I used to have a print. It is perfectly staged and yes it is like photos in blogs. I had never looked at it that way.
    An interesting perspective.
    Well Debbie, she left you a challenging blog to respond to!

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    1. She sure did! I love going to the Art Museums. We would go to the Philly one quite often.Have been to a few over in Europe also. I love the scenic paintings most, like mountains, rivers, homesteads and such. I don’t pay much attention to the painters names. So not a name dropper here. I have heard of Andrew Wyeth and will have to look up some of his work. I do like the Dutch everyday paintings too. Not into the modern stuff much. Linda and Mike finally have gotten on the cruise ship and I am not being woken up at 6am every morning.There is 7 hour time difference and it was late lunchtime there but too early here. They are enjoying their balcony for the scenic views I love.

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      1. I’m sorry if you imagine me to be a name dropper. If I did not make it clear, I do not now, nor did I ever know any of the Wyeths personally. I had no special access to their work. I attended a traveling art exhibition of the Helga paintings when they were first revealed to the public and which was open to the public. I’m just a charter member of the riff raff who loves their art.

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  3. I love that bloggers take the time to stage and edit their photos. To me, it’s like going to an art exhibit of contemporary but vintage scenes. And Linda is one of the best at posting visually heart warming photos. The colors, arrangements and quirkiness of the staging is what makes the blog so appealing. So, I agree that it’s not ‘realistic’ but heck, who needs reality anyway. Deb, good luck with the new house – I can’t wait till we get our Quandiefied version (edited of course) of your home!

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  4. At one time, I thought about starting a blog. However, after seeing that you also have to be a photographer and learn about staging everything (something that I have no interest in) I decided against it. Kudos to you, your photos are always top notch. Enjoy your trip!

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    1. Yeah too much work for me too! The only way I would be a blogger is if it was about Disney, That I know quite a lot about, It has been my favorite subject since I was a kid. That is where most of my best photos come from. Have many a scrapbook on the parks, including the popcorn turners, lights all over the parks and the trash cans.

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  5. Beautiful artwork. I think it must be – for the artist anyway – much like our famy back in tbe fifties and sixties. On Sundays, the whole family would get dressed up in our best to go to church. And everyone would be on their best behavior. But then we’d go home and everyone would change clothes and go back to the “real” life of teasing each other and sometimes beating up on one another (this was not limited to just the boys either). For some reason, the “going to church” would have been the image painted, not the more “realistic” every day picture. Which is ok I guess….Having been there, I have the every day stuff in my head anyway.

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    1. Yep, Terri it was the same for us too. I remember quite a few tuffs between Linda, our brother Bob and me. But we mostly got along every weekend when we were all jammed in the camper. Sunday night dinners were always the best.

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  6. I don’t know much about art or artists in general. The milk maid painting is so beautiful though. When I’ve been to art museums it’s the paintings that look like you could just walk right into the scene, because they are so realistic looking, that I enjoy. I so look forward to this blog too bc Linda’s furniture and staging makes me feel like I could just walk right in and feel so welcome. All the colors she uses and the vignettes she creates are always so beautiful. Hope she’s having a great vacation too. Debbie, congrats on your new home too. That’s always an exciting time for anyone.

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  7. Most interesting post today. I have always been fond of Dutch life style paintings. Aren’t you the astute one to make a connection between “unrealistic realism” and blogging? We have a floral giclee in that Dutch master style. My husband remarked shortly after we purchased it how odd the diversity of blooms in the arrangement were. When I asked what he meant he replied those could have never been assembled together in real life. Well why not? Because they all bloomed in different parts of the growing season. More unrealistic realism regardless makes for a stunning bouquet.
    Doing a great job Debbie. Thanks for holding down the fort. How’s Lucy is she settled in or roaming around looking for Mr. & Mrs. Q? I ask because I dogsat my son’s dog last night and she keep meandering around the house looking for him.

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  8. Thanks about the doing a great job. Lucy is doing just fine. She sleeps at my head every night and climbs up on my chest at night when I am watching tv before bed. The only thing I think she doesn’t appreciate is that I don’t let her go outside at night after I get home from work.

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