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Watching "Tim's Vermeer"
Published on March 24, 2014 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Penn & Teller art documentary "Tim's Vermeer."

Here's an excerpt:

"I like magic, and I like Penn & Teller, the famed illusionists known for their prankish sense of humor and scientific skepticism. I still remember seeing the duo perform live as a child, and watching Teller swallow sewing needles and thread, then pull the thread from his mouth with all the needles threaded on it. As magic tricks go, that’s pretty unforgettable.

Penn & Teller always keep things interesting, which is why I was excited to see 'Tim’s Vermeer,' a documentary directed by Teller and produced by Penn Jillette and Farley Ziegler. The subject isn’t magic, but art — more specifically, an art mystery. The film focuses on inventor Tim Jenison (a friend of Penn’s) and his effort to prove that 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer used a system of lenses and mirrors — something similar to a camera obscura — to create his stunningly realistic domestic scenes.

Jenison wasn’t the first to suggest that Vermeer was aided by the technology of his time, and acknowledges his debt to British painter David Hockney, who explored the idea in his 2001 book 'Secret Knowledge.' But for those who believe Vermeer was a genius with an uncommon gift for painting light, textures and other tiny details, the theory is radical and unwelcome, because it suggests the great painter might have been a bit of a cheat, tracing images reflected on a mirror. Or, if not a cheat, a tinkerer and inventor, rather than a true artist."

Click here to read the whole thing.

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