Travels in Vermeer: A Memoir

Travels in Vermeer: A Memoir

Language: English

Pages: 192

ISBN: 0892554371

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


“This book is a treasure and a guide. It is a type of healing for the intellect and the heart.” - (Rebecca Lee)

A lyrical and intimate account of how a poet, in the midst of a bad divorce, finds consolation and grace through viewing the paintings of Vermeer, in six world cities. In the midst of a divorce (in which the custody of his young daughter is at stake) and over the course of a year, the poet Michael White, travels to Amsterdam, The Hague, Delft, London, Washington, and New York to view the paintings of Johannes Vermeer, an artist obsessed with romance and the inner life.  He is astounded by how consoling it is to look closely at Vermeer’s women, at the artist’s relationship to his subjects, and at how composition reflects back to the viewer such deep feeling. Includes the author’s very personal study of Vermeer. Through these travels and his encounters with Vermeer’s radiant vision, White finds grace and personal transformation.

"White brings [sensitivity] to his luminous readings of the paintings.  An enchanting book about the transformative power of art."  - (Kirkus Reviews) 

"… Figures it took a poet to get it this beautifully, thrillingly right.” - (Peter Trachtenberg)

"A unique dance among genres...clear and powerful descriptions touch on the mysteries of seduction, loss, and the artistic impulse."   - (Clyde Edgerton)

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set and cleared and set and cleared, a handful of customers waiting in front more or less continuously—then gradually emptied again, the bentwood chairs turned upside down on the tables all around. The place is a tomb, our candlewick about to drown in a pool of wax. “It’s fabulous,” I say. “I can’t believe it. As good as Florence.” “It’s the mascarpone,” she says. “It has to be fresh.” “Tell me, Stephanie,” I say. “How is it—this—working out? Because I’d like to see you again.” “Sure,” she

fingertips rise involuntarily to the tip of her chin, the delicate lowering of her jaw. I love the tender expression of the maid, as if unaware of status—as if there’s a sisterly bond that easily and naturally transcends every boundary between them. I can’t completely embrace this painting, and it might have to do with the fact that the background, for once, is left dark and undefined, so the figures hover in nebulous space. Some critics have assumed that the painting was unfinished simply

Sphinx of Delft,” as the nineteenth century French critic Thoré-Bürger named him, casting him as an enigmatic genius—is wrong. Vermeer was never alone. The vocabulary that we associate with him—the geometrical patterns of the tiled floors, the straight-backed, leather-upholstered chairs, the treatment of glass, even the meticulously measured rake of light though space—is here, too, in this box, as clearly as in Vermeer’s paintings. Suddenly I know how Alice must have felt—after finding the

squeaky shoes. It still seems odd that this woman—part lady, part love goddess—regards me with such a shadowed, greenish face. And yet everything that might ordinarily attract my eye in this luminous painting is similarly shadowed: her mouth, her chest, her arms and hands, even the pearls at her throat dissolve to a smoky blur. I look into her face for fifteen minutes or so, then look away. Then try again. After the intensities of The Milkmaid, of The Girl with a Pearl Earring, and all the

the Delft master hang on the far wall. (A fourth appears with related genre works—busy group scenes—on the right-hand wall.) The Vermeers are unexpectedly small, but the force of the spell they cast is so eerily powerful that it’s difficult to move, to breathe. So I stop, I look around. The walls are cream-colored floral damask; the floor is parquet, with a centered, rectangular, slate blue rug. Behind me: Gabriel Metsu’s frankly disturbing yet sympathetic The Sick Child. I take a step or two

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