A reality TV show within the Netherlands is giving latest life to old paintings, a few of which have not been seen in lots of of years.
Called The Recent Vermeer, the hit series challenges artists to recreate the six lost works of Seventeenth-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer.
Vermeer is some of the famous Dutch artists of all time, but only about three dozen of his paintings are known to exist. Six others are lost — one stolen from a museum a long time ago, and others only known from temporary written descriptions gleaned from inventories or auction records from across the time of his death in 1675.
“This stuff have never even been seen,” artist Maudy Alferink, a contestant on the show’s first episode, told As It Happens host Nil Köksal. “It’s only on a bit of paper — a small sentence — with the knowledge.”
Those small sentences are all The Recent Vermeer contestants must go by as they work to re-imagine a masterpiece from scratch.
6 lost paintings, 6 episodes
The six-episode series launched on Feb. 12, and it’s already an enormous hit within the Netherlands, says Josse van Rhee, a spokesperson on Omroep MAX, the channel that airs it.
Each of the three episodes which have aired thus far have seen viewerships of between 1.2 million and 1.3 million, he said. The Netherlands has a population of 17.5 million.
The show’s launch coincided with the opening of an exhibit at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum that features 28 Vermeers — the biggest collection of the artists’ work ever shown. The exhibit already sold out.
Each episode of The Recent Vermeer pits two artists against one another to re-create the identical work.
They get 4 months to create the piece, and throughout the process, they’ll seek the advice of with experts and curators who coach them concerning the Vermeer’s style and technique, in addition to historically accurate materials, props and settings.
For Alferink — a self-taught painter — seizing this chance was a no brainer.
“That is the best way I taught myself to color. I checked out Caravaggio, Vermeer, Rembrandt, all of the classical masters … and now I get the chance to be with all these specialists,” she said.
“It was really special, so I didn’t must think twice.”
In the primary episode, Alferink competed against artist Nard Kwast.
He’s all the time had a passion for the works of the old masters, he says, and has numerous experience making reproductions of their work — though never before with no reference point.
This time, all he needed to go on was an outline that roughly translates to: A lord washing his hands in a room with other figures.
Kwast says he began by doing his homework. He studied the artist’s work intensely, each in books and museums, asking himself: What makes a Vermeer a Vermeer?
“I even have to essentially dive into this,” he said.
Kwast says he’s all the time appreciated Vermeer for his precision, the best way he works with light, and his ability to depict these still and quiet moments.
But through the show, he’s been capable of observe intimately just how much the artist improved himself and refined his technique throughout his profession.
“I even have rather more appreciation for his work now after this whole program,” he said. “It is so genius what he does. It is so skilful also. But there may be also something special about him.”
Ultimately, each artists got here up with similar scenes wherein a maid washes the lord’s hand while one other woman looks on from behind. The precise details differ, but each paintings imply a relationship — or perhaps a tension — between the three characters.
Alferink does this through symbolism, painting lemons on the table, and a servant woman entering the room with a basket of peaches.
“Lemons, they mean it’s like a sour love or like a love that has gone improper. And peaches, they mean sensuality and fruitfulness,” Alferink said. “So there’s storyline between the three people in there and … as a viewer, you are attempting to determine what is going on on.”
In Kwast’s version, as a substitute of peaches, the girl is carrying a letter. The maid washing the lord’s hands casts her a knowing look, almost as if to warn: “Perhaps this will not be the fitting moment to come back here,” he said.
“I desired to create some form of tension between these people,” Kwast said. “To be honest, I’m the creator of this painting, but I’m not likely sure what’s happening. But I do know there’s something happening. And I like this greater than [if it was] totally clear.”
Making art accessible
Each Alferink and Kwast are blown away by all the eye the show is getting.
“It’s, for me, a bit bit surreal,” Kwast said. “I’m really feeling proud.”
Alferink hopes it can help introduce more people not only Vermeer’s work, but additionally the art world usually. Already, she said she’s received emails from individuals who were inspired by the show to take up painting themselves.
“I hope that’s motivating people to go to more museums,” she said. “I actually hope so.”
The Recent Vermeer will not be available for viewing in Canada, but its accompanying web series, Masterclass, is on YouTube. Anyone can tune into the digital version of the Rijksmuseum exhibit here.