Junior Proseminar
Vermeer and the Art of Seeing
210 Tappan
Th 1:00-4:00pm
3 Credit Seminar

Johannes Vermeer is one of the most admired of seventeenth-century Dutch artists, but also one the most peculiar. His reputation rests on an unusually small corpus of roughly three dozen pictures that are singular in their sustained analysis of the optical artifice of what has come to be known as Dutch realism. Vermeer's pictures provide perhaps the most acute pictorial inquiries we have into the descriptive claims of Dutch art and naturalistic painting in general. The seminar will use Vermeer's art as a lens through which to explore the relationships between Dutch painting and the range of optical and pictorial technologies that constituted its visual culture. Readings will include writings on art, cartography, optics, experimental inquiry, and image theory by Vermeer's contemporaries as well as key interpretive and critical efforts to come to terms with Vermeer's art from the nineteenth century onwards. We will aim to situate Vermeer's artistic project in relation to the historical circumstances of artistic production in the Dutch Republic, and in relation to larger questions about the relationship between pictorial images and visuality. Topics to discuss include the making and marketing of Dutch art, developments in perspective and optics, Vermeer and the camera obscura, artistic practice and experimental inquiry, artistic and critical responses to Vermeer, the Van Megeren forgeries, and recent technical and scientific studies of Vermeer's work. Requirements include attendance and informed participation in seminar meetings, weekly responses to course readings, an in-class presentation, and a research paper of 15-20 pages. Estimated cost of materials: $50 or more but less than $100. D. 3