What: Vermeer and Music The Art of Love and Leisure.
An exhibition examining the role of music in 17th century Dutch painting, including 5 works by Vermeer.
Where: National Gallery of London
When: Until 8th September 2013
Cost: Entrance: £7, Audio Guides £3 – but definitely worth it!
This temporary exhibition in the National Gallery of London explores the theme of music in 17th century Dutch painting. The exhibition culminates in five beautiful works by Vermeer, and also features works by artists such as Carl Fabritius, Peter van der Hooch, Jan Steen and Gabriel Metsu as well as 17th century instruments and songbooks. It’s well worth getting the audio guide (£3) as you’re going around the exhibition – as well as comments by the curator of the exhibition, it features music experts from the Academy who discuss the instruments and play pieces of music from the period.
It’s a rare thing to see so many Vermeers in one room – the five paintings on show represent a seventh of the artist’s total body of work. Prior to visiting this exhibition, I had only seen one Vermeer in person (Woman Writing A Letter, in the National Gallery of Ireland); to see so many Vermeer paintings together was quite an experience! Three paintings of women playing music hang on the same wall, representing a popular theme in Vermeer’s work. One of these, The Guitar Player, is on loan from Kenwood House. Another painting on display is The Music Lesson. This is an interesting work in that the figures are at the very back of the painting, meaning the viewer is looking in on a very intimate scene. All these paintings showcase what is so wonderful about Vermeer’s style – his mastery of light and detail.
When I visited with my sister and a friend, we spent two hours going around the exhibition. It’s really wonderful, the detail of the Dutch paintings is incredible, and the theme of music is certainly an interesting one. My sister is a music student, so she particularly enjoyed seeing all the instruments on display. The paintings in the exhibition are mostly genre scenes, but there are also portraits and still lifes featuring musical instruments. This is a fascinating exhibition, one that any fan of Vermeer, or Dutch art in general, should definitely see!