The Color of Music

‘The art of love and leisure.’ Doesn’t that just sound like something you want to be a part of? It’s actually the tagline for London’s National Gallery’s summer exhibition ‘Vermeer and Music.’

Travel back to 17th century Dutch life. Those hundred years produced some fabulous painters, Johannes Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch to name just two. At the time, one of the upper classes’ favorite activities was music. The National Gallery has brought these two aspects of the period together by displaying some of the most valued paintings by Vermeer and his contemporaries and juxtaposing them with musical instruments and songbooks of the time. The exhibition will also include performances of music from the period.

Synonyms: Period and time: These words are close in meaning but a period is more specific, meaning time from a set beginning to an end. Time can have this same meaning but it can also refer to a point as well as the abstract concept. More importantly we use different prepositions. We can use at, during and in with ‘time’ but only during and in with ‘period.’

Music was a common theme in 17th century Dutch painting. For example, one third of Vermeer’s paintings show musical themes or include a musical instrument. The frequency of music in art may be because music was a common part of life for Dutch people at the time. Most towns employed city musicians who performed at weddings, fairs and other town events. In larger cities they might also play entertaining music from the town hall or on the square and bells rang out from churches. Taverns were often filled with song and guests were invited to join in. However, Dutch music from the period is not at the same international level as music from other European nations.

Plurals: Life and Still life: Usually, the plural of ‘life’ is ‘lives’. But the plural of still life is ‘still lifes’.

Music was a powerful symbol in 17th century Dutch paintings. A musical instrument or songbook might suggest the talent or sophistication of the sitter. In still lifes or scenes of everyday life, it might represent harmony, change, education or high social position.

While the music adds life to this exhibition, the paintings are the heart. Three in particular are important: ‘A Young Woman standing at a Virginal’ and ‘A Young Woman seated at a Virginal’ from the National Gallery along with ‘The Guitar Player,’ which was borrowed from the Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood House.

Vermeer didn’t paint much, only about 40 paintings. Rembrandt in comparison painted hundreds. Then again, Vermeer died at the age of 43 so perhaps another decade would have produced another ten paintings or so. Despite the small number of paintings, Vermeer is appreciated for his unique scenes of domestic serenity. People are often shown reading, writing, sleeping or simply thinking.

For me, I like a personal connection in art. I find in Vermeer’s work something which inspires me to think. Combined with the music, I think this exhibition would be a very rich experience.

Original article by Jacy Meyer – Phoenix, Arizona. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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London’s National Gallery’s brings together two arts – music and painting in their summer exhibition ‘Vermeer and Music.’

Synonyms: Period and time: These words are close in meaning but a period is more specific, meaning time from a set beginning to an end. Time can have this same meaning but it can also refer to a point as well as the abstract concept. More importantly we use different prepositions. We can use at, during and in with ‘time’ but only during and in with ‘period.’

Music was a common subject in 17th century Dutch paintings. For example, one third of Vermeer’s paintings show musical themes or include a musical instrument. This isn’t surprising. Music was a common part of life for Dutch people at the time. Most towns had city musicians. They played at weddings and other town events. In larger cities they might also play entertaining music from the town hall or on the square and bells rang out from churches. People often played music in pubs. However, Dutch music from the period is not so well-known.

Music was a powerful symbol in 17th century Dutch paintings. A musical instrument or songbook could mean talent, harmony, change, education or high social position.

Three painting in the exhibition are important: ‘A Young Woman standing at a Virginal’ and ‘A Young Woman seated at a Virginal’ from the National Gallery along with ‘The Guitar Player,’ which was borrowed from the Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood House.

Vermeer didn’t paint much, only about 40 paintings. Rembrandt in comparison painted hundreds. But Vermeer died at the age of 43 so he had less time. Despite the small number of paintings, Vermeer is very good at showing peace in home life.

I like a personal connection in art. I find in Vermeer’s work something which inspires me to think. Combined with the music, I think this exhibition would be a very rich experience.

Original article by Jacy Meyer – Phoenix, Arizona. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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‘The art of love and leisure.’ Doesn’t that just sound like something you want to be a part of? It’s actually the tagline for London’s National Gallery’s summer exhibition ‘Vermeer and Music.’

Travel back to 17th century Dutch life. Those hundred years produced some fabulous painters, Johannes Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch to name just two. At the time, one of the upper classes’ favorite pastimes was music. The National Gallery has brought these two aspects of the period together by displaying some of the most valued paintings by Vermeer and his contemporaries and juxtaposing them with musical instruments and songbooks of the period. The best part of this exhibition though is that three days a week the Academy of Ancient Music will perform, aiming to bring the paintings to life with music from the period.

According to the catalog accompanying the exhibition, musical themes comprise as much as 12 percent of all paintings made in the 17th century Netherlands. Among some painters who specialized in scenes of everyday life, the number rises as high as 30 percent. Of the 36 surviving paintings by Vermeer, 12 depict musical themes or include a musical instrument. Interestingly however, Dutch composers of this time period failed to achieve distinction outside of their country. Dutch music of the era has been characterized as ‘thoroughly bourgeois’ and being comprised of an indigenous song culture in which traditional psalms and popular tunes predominated. Maybe that’s because music permeated the everyday life of Dutch citizens – most towns employed city musicians who performed at weddings, processions, fairs and other town events. In larger cities they might also play a daily musical interlude from the town hall or on the square. Carillons were typically heard ringing out from church and town hall towers and municipally appointed city organists gave regular concerts on church organs. Most weekdays, taverns might host travelling musicians who performed popular songs, while in music halls customers were actively encouraged to take up one of the instruments lying around and participate in the performance.

Plurals: Life and Still life: Usually, the plural of ‘life’ is ‘lives’. But the plural of still life is ‘still lifes’.

Music had a variety of associations in 17th century Dutch paintings. In portraits, a musical instrument or songbook might suggest the talent or sophistication of the sitter, while in still lifes or scenes of everyday life, it might act as a metaphor for harmony, a symbol of transience or, depending on the type of music being performed, an indicator of education and position in society.

While the music may add life to this exhibition, the paintings are certainly the heart, three in particular. On display will be three Vermeer’s portraying female musicians. Two will be the National Gallery’s:  ‘A Young Woman standing at a Virginal’ and ‘A Young Woman seated at a Virginal.’ They will be joined by Vermeer’s ‘The Guitar Player,’ which is on loan from the Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood House. Another standout to see is Vermeer’s ‘The Music Lesson’ on loan from Her Majesty the Queen. In addition to works by Vermeer, the exhibition will include paintings by Gerard ter Borch, Gabriel Metsu, Jan Steen, Pieter de Hooch and Godfried Schalcken.

Auxiliary verb: Did: This paragraph has two uses of the auxiliary verb ‘did’. The first use is because it shows the verb ‘produce’ is repeated without writing the word again. The second use of ‘did’ is to emphasize the verb, in this case ‘die’.

Vermeer was a remarkably unprolific painter. Estimates are he only produced about 40 paintings, compared to the hundreds someone like Rembrandt did. Vermeer did die at the age of 43, however, so perhaps another decade would have produced another ten paintings or so. What’s notable about Vermeer’s oeuvre however is the fantasy of domestic order and tranquility he seems to create, with only a single person or maybe a couple people in the scene, often going about personal activities such as reading, writing, sleeping, making music or simply reflecting.

I always attempt to engage in the art I am viewing, rather than just passively staring at it. Vermeer’s innate sense of form, the classical harmony and purity of his designs are a joy to contemplate. Add a background of period music and the experience develops a rare richness one hopes to find in a gallery.

Jacy Meyer – Phoenix, Arizona

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