Tim’s Vermeer–Art History Meets Technology

Penn and Teller’s new documentary, Tim’s Vermeer, is about Tim Jenison, founder of NewTek, a man with no drawing skills, deciding to paint a picture equal to one by Johannes Vermeer by using technology to aid him.  Jenison was inspired by David Hockney who wrote Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters, which developed the Hockney-Falco thesis.  Basically, Jenison attempts to completely recreate a Vermeer to test this theory, and David Hockney appears in the film to judge his results.  Jenison decides to paint The Music Lesson, and goes so far as to recreate Vermeer’s studio in a warehouse, use the same handmade pigments Vermeer used, and grind his his own lenses to exclude modern technological advantages.   The film is about the years it took to prove a Vermeer like painting could be made using the Hockney-Falco like techniques.

I found the film dazzling for several reasons.  First, Tim Jenison is an inspiration for anyone with big ambitions.  Second, and most importantly, I loved seeing the Vermeer paintings blown up to the size of theater screens.  Third, the film shows just how tedious it is to paint a picture.  Fourth, it’s just so damn far out to see how technology works.  It really doesn’t matter if you believe the hypothesis or not, because the documentary is a wonderful example of how inventors works.

Here is the original Vermeer.  Click to see larger version.

the music lesson

Here is Jenison’s painting.  It’s different because the studio and models he used were different.


The trouble with the hypothesis is it can’t be proved.  We have plenty of contemporary painters who paint dazzling photo-realistic paintings that don’t use similar optical technology.  Tim’s Vermeer’s feat of invention just proves that photo-realistic painting can be painted by a non-artist using technology.  Essentially, Tim Jenison became a very slow photographic emulsion.

The hypothesis contends that beyond a certain point the eye can only see so much and the Vermeer paintings represent something beyond human capabilities.  I’m afraid they are misjudging the capabilities of the mind.  Just study Oliver Sacks.

Look at this video about Stephen Wiltshire’s ability to see, remember and draw.


Or look at what modern painters can do, such as Alyssa Monks.



Or watch this painting of Morgan Freeman being made on an iPad by Kyle Lambert.

If you want to know more, please read:

JWH – 4/2/14

This is Colossal

Colossal: Art & Visual Ingenuity is a web site that visually amazes.  And although it has 275,000 likes on Facebook, I’ve only recently discovered http://thisiscolossal.com.  I wish I had a talent to be artistic.  I think of artists are people whose profession is to create beauty, and I love to look at beauty.

I thought I’d show some of the artwork that amazed me recently at Colossal.  My tastes resonate with about one out of ten posts, so visit the site to see more variety of artwork.  Especially since my tastes are so narrow.  One easy way to keep up with Colossal is to subscribe to their weekly email newsletter.  If I was rich I’d travel the world just to look at all this art in person.

Harold Ross developed a technique of lighting night scenes with a LED flashlight.  Read about the details at his blog.


One of the things I love about Colossal is they provide videos about how artists work.  Here is one about Amy Casey.

Some art doesn’t even look like what people think about as art, as in this video Hyperdrive.

Some art, like this installation by tomás saraceno, allows for people to become part of the canvas.


This photograph, of a single image, by Bela Borosdi requires a video to really appreciate.  Who would imagine creating such a work?


I love super-realistic artists like omar ortiz.  What kind of skill, power of concentration, and patience does it take to create such works?



Some art moves, so other than being there, we need video to show it off.   In Cloud Light by Anthony Howe.

Elizabeth Patterson produces paintings that distort my sense of reality.


Lisa Park’s work is science fictional.

Sometimes art isn’t created but caught in life with a photograph, as Rakesh JV does at this face painting festival.


Sometimes art is being at the right place at the right time.  This video is by Mike Olbinski.

Some artists work on a very big scale, such as JT Singh, who calls himself an urban graphic explorer.

Here JT Singh is giving a TED talk.

Here Singh captures Vietnam.

Here Brusspup uses science to create art.

Some artists like Jon Smith can find beauty in making something and then breaking it.


Gil Bruvel makes metal blow in the wind.


This is just a very small taste of what’s at Colossal.  If you love art, if you love to indulge our eyes in beautiful visuals, if you love creativity, if you love to be amazed at the infinite powers of human invention, then look at this site daily.

If I had the time I’d save these images and videos and make a slide show for my big screen TV.  I already save images I like to a folder that my computer uses for wallpaper backgrounds.

JWH – 6/29/13

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