ANDRÉ DURAND Twenty-First Century Paintings
Dimensions: 91 X 71
Oil on linen
The Art of Painting 1665-67
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
This painting was long called The Artist in His Studio, and we may in effect presume that the artist seen from behind was himself. However, the intention of representing an allegory is stronger here than in all other Vermeer’s works. The heavy curtain on the left, which lets the viewer partake of the scene, has decidedly theatrical connotations. So does the young girl whom the artist portrays, and whose crown of laurel easily identifies her as Fame. A connection with Clio, the muse of history, also exists. She holds a trumpet and a book of Thucydides.
The whole composition is a panegyric to the art of painting. Set in an elegant room, with a chandelier, chairs, the lush curtain, and a large map on the back wall, which shows the northern and southern Netherlands and indicates the area over which the reputation of the artist could spread, its overall meaning emphasizes the attainment of fame to the benefit of the man in the pursuit of his artistic endeavours as well as ‘qua’ citizen of his hometown.
For more than a hundred years it has been suggested that the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (1632—1675) used the camera obscura. The camera obscura was the predecessor of the photographic camera. It is a simple optical device incorporating a pinhole or lens, with which an image of a scene can be projected onto a screen. The image can then be traced and copied. Art historians have come to accept the idea that Vermeer might have been inspired by such images, or might have used the camera occasionally.
Durand, with his picture, Vermeer’s Camera, proposes, controversially, that the painter’s use of optical aids was much more extensive than this.