Tim’s Vermeer opens today in select theaters, and if you have any sort of artistic inclinations or, for that matter, have an unwavering spirit, it’s a documentary I’d highly suggest. Directed by Teller and produced by longtime collaborator Penn Jillette, the project comes off as one of their greatest illusions, as the pair, along with inventor Tim Jenison, pull back the curtain to reveal an entirely new creation.
Jenison’s epic undertaking was to explore how Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer captured a photo realistic rendering of his work, 150 years before the creation of photography. With the use of a camera obscura, two mirrors, and pinpoint precision, Jenison attempted to recreate his own version of Vermeer’s The Music Lesson. Handcrafting his own paints and pigments, fashioning his own lens, and recreating the painter’s own working conditions by reconfiguring a warehouse in Texas were just a few of the details Jenison employed to prove his theory.
The true resonance behind Tim’s Vermeer, however, is not just the exploration of Vermeer’s innovative technique or the apparent solving of a mystery. The documentary explores Jenison’s passionate and dogged attention to detail, even to the point of sheer exhaustion.
“I really felt like I was getting inside Vermeer’s head,” said Jenison during our conversation. “Building this room was in a way building a time machine. If I did my job right, that would look ideal to what Vermeer was seeing in his living room…I learned everything I could about Vermeer. I read every book I could find, just trying to get into his head and studying what Holland was like in Delft in 1650. I just immersed myself (in the world).”
Click on the media bar to hear Tim Jenison talk about the “astounding” response he’s received from people who’ve seen Tim’s Vermeer.