The route is so circuitous

The route is so circuitous it bores even me, but I just came across The Essential Vermeer Lover, a scholarly yet very engaging site about, well, Vermeer.

While it'll embarass him, I have to add a quick story from shooting in France about the cinematographer for Souvenir (November 2001), Jonah Freeman. Each night, we'd review the dailies on a giant monitor in the hotel lobby. On one such evening, a French woman (presumably another hotel guest) stood hovering behind us, watching quietly. When an extended shot of the Somme landscape (fields, with some trees at a distant ridge, with shadows of clouds racing across the fields and a really complicate sky) came on, she suddenly called out, "It's just like Vermer [sic]!" She startled us, and then it took a while to figure who she was talking about. We figured the Vermer/Vermeer pronounciation thing was like Van Go/Van Gochh, something that, even if it was correct, Americans could never pull off. In any case, after that, any shots with sublime-looking light became known as Vermers. Here is Vermeer's View of Delft, which then came to mind after the woman's exclamation.

While Vermeer's remaining work is known for subtlety and serenity, he painted during a prolonged war and religiously fueled conflict which devastated his home city of Delft. Early in his painting career, in 1654, a munitions depot in the town, which held 90,000 pounds of gunpowder, exploded to devastating effect. The Delft Thunderclap, as the accident came to be known, leveled buildings for hundreds of yards, damaged nearly every building in town, and killed and wounded unknown hundreds of people. [Read Anthony Bailey's chapter about the Thunderclap, or buy his book, View of Delft.] One artist, Egbert van der Poel, painted over twenty versions of View of Delft After the Explosion in his career. Vermeer's View of Delft, then, turns out to be a portrait of a partially/newly rebuilt city, one in the midst of and recovering from disaster.

(I'm working on an extended post about Jonah's art, both his photography and installation work. Stay tuned.)

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: July 25, 2002.

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