"Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry", is the title of a jaw-dropping exhibition currently on display at the National Gallery in Washington, DC. I met a couple of artist friends at the Gallery yesterday morning to share the experience of this wonderful assemblage of masterful art. The underlying concept of the exhibition, which consists of about 70 works all together and features ten by the master, Vermeer himself, is to display works by him and a number of his contemporaries - all painting at the same time - to compare and contrast their individual approaches to the genre of portraying every day life.
This is the kind of assemblage of art that, for an artist like myself, really touches the key issues of what it is to work among peers - learning from each other, bouncing ideas off one another, and feeding each other's needs to grow as an artist.
Artists don't necessarily work within a vacuum, though we do tend to spend a great deal of time alone in our studios, alone with our own personal thoughts of how to work, what to focus on, and how to portray it. Having other working artists as friends and those to socialize with, enables we creative beings to 'talk shop', look over each other's shoulders and offer critique and advice when asked. Seeing a large grouping of works, many of which portray similar if not duplicate ideas and compositional frameworks hanging side by side so comparisons can not only be seen directly but also understood in the broader context of a specific period of time, gives a more in-depth, richer appreciation of such bodies of work.
As exceptional as many of his contemporary fellow Dutch countrymen artists were, once you see a Vermeer hung side by side with them, the immensity of his talents overbears.
There is much to take away from this exhibition, which hangs through January 21st, and if you have time to enjoy the hour and a half video that is available on the Gallery web site, linked here, it will give a very fine overview of the idea behind this exceptional exhibition, or better still, if you can plan a visit to the National Gallery in the next month, you won't be disappointed.