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  • Arthur Bacon

Tim’s Vermeer. Penn and Teller.

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

First of all, what a dreadfully pretentious, expensive, meaningless, stupid idea to begin with; to make a copy of Vermeer’s The Music Lesson! If the raison d’etre of this movie were to illustrate thoroughly to the lay public what art is not, then this might have been a worthwhile project, albeit ridiculously expensive and time-consuming. But, I suspect that, with narcissist inventor, millionaire Tim Jenison standing there in front of his nouveau riche fireplace in San Antone, Texas with his faux Vermeer above his mantel, we are encouraged to believe that even a video software mechanic from Brownsville can make art so you can too; no big deal. Anybody can be an artist if they just know “the trick”.

There is never a word in this film about what art is, what it means to be an artist, why an artist chooses to paint certain things and what significance there might be in his choice of time, place, material and subject, much less colors, brushes, composition and content. Every day of an artist is a struggle to say something significant in his/her work. Not a hint of the fact that every good painting is a living thing, growing, changing, evolving from beginning to end. Sure, an artist might choose to paint a static scene of a town across the river but as the weeks and months go by all sorts of things change, from his mood, his health, the light, the season, people in the scene and his supply of pigments.

This idiotic movie calumniates the whole basis of art as something special, as though anybody with a lens and a mirror and unlimited time can make art as good as Vermeer (lets face it, this is the basic message of this film: Tim, with no training in art can make a painting as good as one of the greatest painters of all time). Over and over in this film Tim suggests that perhaps Vermeer had no training as an artist because there are no written documents showing apprenticeship or other professional training; that maybe Vermeer was not actually an artist but another mechanical schmuck like himself who just happened to stumble upon this little trick with lenses and mirrors, casually ignoring the fact that Vermeer’s father was an art dealer and the logical surmise that of course Vermeer had more than ample artistic training. I mean, this sort of conjecture is too ludicrous; about like suggesting that Mozart might not have had professional training since there is no documentation of his enrollment in the local music academies back there in Saltzburg. The fact is, Vermeer was a gifted, professional painter. He belonged to the local Delft painter’s guild and was recognized in contemporary Dutch journals as a professional painter. He was not some dude who ran a hostel and set up his little lens-mirror contraption to bedazzle the naïve locals into buying his stuff.

Then there is all this nonsense about light “which ONLY a video camera can see”. This is pure balderdash; in fact, the human eye and brain can “see” subtleties better than any bloody video camera. What are they trying to ram down our gullible throats anyway? But we sit there believing because the people who made this movie are professional magicians whose job it is is to make us believe the impossible and at every opportunity they cleverly distract us with meaningless asides.

How do magicians make us think they have pulled a rabbit out of a hat or made the elephant disappear? They distract us. In this movie we are constantly being distracted, first with the nonsense about light and then later with all the silly fabrication of a facsimile 17th Century Dutch music room. We are shown images of Tim with his auto-cad software re-constructing the room and then having various items like the viola da gamba and the virginal made meticulously by present-day craft persons as though that meticulousness has anything to do with art. He could just as well have found actual antiques or museum pieces to use in his faux Delft music room). This is sleight-of-hand 101 leading us away from what is really going on.

At some point, we have to ask, why did Tim choose the one Vermeer that is virtually totally inaccessible to the rest of us? None of us will ever see the bloody queen’s Vermeer to compare it with the piece of crap Tim made. Possibly, just maybe somebody riding by on a fast horse across the street might not see the difference between Tim’s lifeless POC (piece of crap) and the real thing (if you look on the Internet and find the two side by side you will immediately see that Tim’s mirror painting is totally lifeless and flat), but it is guaranteed that if one were to put the two paintings side by side Tim’s would look like a childish paint-by-numbers monstrosity compared with the real thing. But, conveniently for Tim and his magician buddies Penn and Teller, we will never have that opportunity. Who are those guys anyway? A VERY cursory search reveals that they are a couple of trick pony, magic show, libertarian Las Vegas entertainers who have NOTHING to say about art. Just because they can make an elephant disappear on stage in Sin City doesn’t mean they can get some Texas video mechanic to make a work of art.

THE ONLY reason to watch this film is if one is bored and needs something to fulminate about; as if Gaza, Guns, Climate Change, Iran, the border and Republican obstructionists aren’t enough we need this? If you really don’t know anything about art and painting and you are a complete idiot you might find this film “interesting”, but for anybody who knows the difference between a stick figure and Michelangelo and loves fine art and is not happy when tricked into wasting an hour and a half watching some bozo from Texas wield a paint brush while pathologically pretending to be a Dutch master then this stupid movie should be on your short list for rotten tomatoes.

Never trust a magician.

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1 Comment

chris behre
chris behre
Aug 27, 2023

Stupid movie. It's amazing that two dimentional people have such resources. Vermeer's work is enchanting, and a gift to history.

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