Tracy Chevalier's hunt for Vermeer

February 17 2019

There's a lovely piece in The Guardian by the author Tracy Chevalier on her quest to see all of Vermeer's paintings, and how they inspired her to write 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'. It all began with a poster:

In the autumn of the previous year, 1981, I first saw a poster of Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring at my sister’s apartment. Smitten by the lovely girl with her blue and yellow turban, her wide eyes and her enigmatic expression, I bought myself a copy, which I have to this day. While knowing nothing about Vermeer, I decided to seek out more of his work.

Update - Tracy is not the only person to have made a Vermeer bucket list. A reader writes:

My own "see all the Vermeers" project, which also benefitted from the two large Vermeer shows at the National Gallery in Washington, then in both NY and London, included a visit to Kenwood around 1989, while the interior was being painted and refreshed. I went to the Director's office and explained that I had come from America to see "The Guitar Player" by Vermeer, and although the room in which it hung was being painted and closed to the public, it must be somewhere. Could I see it. I was taken to an adjacent closed gallery where the painting, protected in a layer of bubble wrap, rested sitting on the floor and leaning casually against a wall, along with other major works. An assistant picked it up, and I peered at it through the plastic. I've seen it at Kenwood since, but without the plastic.

Fortunately, my Vermeer project included a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1987, when it still was in possession of its Vermeer.    I've seen all 35 plus the two recently attributed to Vermeer, both of which have appeared in exhibitions.

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