NPR aired a wonderful feature on Teller’s new documentary of inventor Tim Jenison’s attempt to paint in the manner of 17th century Flemish master Johannes Vermeer. You can hear the entire interview at NPR; here is an excerpt of the interview, Teller Breaks His Silence To Talk ‘Tim’s Vermeer’:
Jenison was inspired by Vermeer’s paintings and by the book Secret Knowledge, in which the contemporary English artist David Hockney theorized that Renaissance painters might have achieved photographic accuracy by employing tools that anticipated photography.
He proposed they may have used the camera obscura, a darkened room with a small aperture that a painter would have sat in as if he were inside a giant pinhole camera — along with lenses, possibly, or more likely concave mirrors.
Jenison brought an inventor’s mind to the task of putting these theories to the test, and Tim’s Vermeer, which explains the project and documents the results, is narrated by Jenison’s friend Penn Gillette, of the magic act Penn and Teller, and directed by the other half of that duo.
Though Penn and Teller’s act usually involves the latter working strictly in silence, Teller took himself off mute to speak with NPR’s Robert Siegel about the film and the method he believes Vermeer used.
“In the 1600s in Holland and that area of Europe, lenses and mirrors were quite popular as things for science hobbyists,” he says.” The telescope had just been invented, so the chances that Vermeer had very good access to all sorts of lenses and mirrors is very high.” [Read more…] about Tim Jenison’s Vermeer Machine