Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vintage Tuesdays - Painter's Obsession

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Written by: Tracy Chevalier

Released: August 16, 1999 by HarperCollins

Summary: With precisely 35 canvases to his credit, the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer represents one of the great enigmas of 17th-century art. The meager facts of his biography have been gleaned from a handful of legal documents. Yet Vermeer's extraordinary paintings of domestic life, with their subtle play of light and texture, have come to define the Dutch golden age. His portrait of the anonymous Girl with a Pearl Earring has exerted a particular fascination for centuries--and it is this magnetic painting that lies at the heart of Tracy Chevalier's second novel of the same title.

Girl with a Pearl Earring centers on Vermeer's prosperous Delft household during the 1660s. When Griet, the novel's quietly perceptive heroine, is hired as a servant, turmoil follows. First, the 16-year-old narrator becomes increasingly intimate with her master. Then Vermeer employs her as his assistant--and ultimately has Griet sit for him as a model. Chevalier vividly evokes the complex domestic tensions of the household, ruled over by the painter's jealous, eternally pregnant wife and his taciturn mother-in-law. At times the relationship between servant and master seems a little anachronistic. Still, Girl with a Pearl Earring does contain a final delicious twist.

I had watched this movie before I read the book, and while the movie was alright, the book is superb. Honestly. I’ve read it several times now and it never loses any of its charm. Griet is this naive character who evolves as she ventures out in life and becomes the fixation of a famous painter for one of his most well-known works (of course, she doesn’t know that the painting would end up as world renown as it did).

I don’t know if I can explain it any better than that it’s a coming of age story that breaches time and space so that anyone can enjoy it. I give it a high 8/10.

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