A Journal for The Contemporary Church

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Vermeer and the Art of Stillness


There is much talk these times of mindfulness: learning to stay in the moment to still that darting mind of ours and bring it to rest here and now. It struck me on my second visit (within one week) to the Vermeer exhibition in the National Gallery in Dublin*
that these paintings call for that kind of meditative response. They evoke stillness and interiority. What is particular about this exhibition is the juxtaposition of the Vermeer paintings with others of the same time and the same subject. There are many aspects that we can consider as we compare: the whole aspect of ‘originality’ is called into question. These ‘genre’ painters didn’t seek original subject matter and, in fact, were quite happy to ‘quote’ other painters, copying the subject matter but adding their own distinctive style. You could visit the exhibition many times and focus on different aspects to study:
you could decide to look at the tapestry rugs adorning the tables and note how each painter conveys the impression of weight and richness with different brush strokes, detail and colour. You could look at the stance of the figures and their gaze. You could observe how the folds of the silken dresses are created with the painter’s illusory art.