Reviews & Articles
維梅爾帶來的兩次驚喜 | Two Surprises by Vermeer
at 6:39pm on 21st December 2018
1. 約翰百德: 《寫信女子與女傭》的素描，日本東京上野之森博物館，2018年11月20日。 John Batten: Sketch of A Woman Writing a Letter, with Her Maid, Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo, Japan, 20 November 2018
2. 《寫信女子與女傭》，愛爾蘭國立美術館，約1670年 。A Woman Writing a Letter, with Her Maid, National Gallery of Ireland, c.1670
(Please scroll down for English version)
展覽「Making the Difference, Vermeer and Dutch Art」最近在東京舉辦，另名「Vermeer 8/35」，展覽出口所賣的推廣產品都印有這個縮短的名稱（維梅爾的《倒牛奶的女僕》（約1658年）印於牛奶糖以及卡通牛奶女僕的包裝上）。我以為會大排長龍，觀眾人山人海。最差的情況是，像80年代尾到90年代初的日本泡沫經濟年代，那些日本百貨公司內的展覽很受歡迎，常展出雷諾瓦晚期較糟糕的作品，你只能在幾秒間，在保安指揮下匆忙掃視這些作品，他們的日式禮貌和展出藝術的名聲一樣薄弱。
Two Surprises by Vermeer
by John Batten
My first Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) surprise was walking for the first time through the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. I had just visited rooms of small, early Flemish religious paintings, a period I have loved since first seeing Hans Memling’s Man of Sorrows in the arms of the Virgin (c.1475) in the National Gallery of Victoria as a child. Then I wandered down a few corridors, made some unplanned turns - and, two centuries later I unintentionally chanced on the Vermeer Room. I joined an elderly lady seated on a sofa to quietly view Vermeer’s beautiful glimpses of 17th century Dutch life: domestic activity and portraiture, subdued light from windows, rich clothes, background paintings, an object as focal point, shadows on a wall, frozen lives still alive.
In Tokyo, the recent Making the Difference, Vermeer and Dutch Art exhibition was sub-titled ‘Vermeer 8/35’, and this shortened title appears on the promotional items for sale at the end of the exhibition (an image of Vermeer’s The Milkmaid (Rijksmuseum, c.1658) is the packaging for “Milk Candy” and a stylized cartoon milkmaid is Japanized as “Vermeer Milk-san”). I was expecting long queues and crowded rooms of viewers. Worse was the possibility of an exhibition like those held in Japanese department stores, so popular in ‘the bubble years’ of the late 1980s and early 1990s, often featuring bad late-Renoirs. Then, you were given seconds to look at the art, rushed along by security guards, whose Japanese politeness was as veneer-thin as the reputation of the art on display.
My second Vermeer surprise: the eight paintings were beautiful, respectfully displayed and viewers could walk freely back-and-forth, to look again and again, no time limit.
So, I relaxed, sketching my favourite, A Woman Writing a Letter, with Her Maid (National Gallery of Ireland, c.1670).
Making the Difference, Vermeer and Dutch Art at Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo, Japan, 5 October to 30 November 2018
This review was originally published in Artomity, December 2018