Luminous and exquisitely rendered, “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter” (about 1663-1664) is one of Vermeer’s most captivating portrayals of a young woman’s private world. This generous loan from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam marks the first appearance of this remarkable painting in San Diego. The Timken’s special installation allows visitors to have an intimate experience with “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter” and highlights one of the most celebrated painters of the Dutch Golden Age.
Praised as one of Vermeer’s most beautiful paintings, “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter” demonstrates the artist’s exceptional command of color, light and perspective. Only about 36 of Vermeer’s paintings are known. He is considered one of the most distinctive and influential masters of the Golden Age. The four-month exhibition also features a variety of events, which include noted scholars on Vermeer. Many of the events are free to the public and are designed to give guests an enhanced understanding of the Vermeer and other masterpieces in the Timken’s collection:
Monday, May 18 at 10 a.m.
“Extraordinary Observation: Vermeer’s Woman in Blue”
Speaker: Anne Woollett, curator, department of paintings, J. Paul Getty Museum
In its compositional refinement and visual impact, “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter” (1663-64) represents a turning point in Vermeer’s career. This lecture considers Vermeer’s signature approach – its rapid development in previous works, and the sophisticated handling of space and light in this work and the so-called “pearl pictures.”
Anne Woollett is curator at the department of paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. She specializes in northern European painting before 1800, and is currently working on a catalogue the Getty’s Flemish paintings.
Wednesday, May 27 at 6:30 p.m.
Art in the Evening Lecture and Reception
Speaker: Arthur K. Wheelock, curator of Northern Baroque painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Admission: $35 member / $45 non-member
Arthur K. Wheelock is the curator of Northern Baroque painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and author of the 1995 publication “Vermeer and the Art of Painting.” He is one of the most prolific writers on Vermeer and offers numerous insights linking painting techniques and artistry.
Monday, June 8 at 10 a.m.
“Vermeer’s Time: The Woman in Blue”
Speaker: Ann Jensen Adams, professor, UC Santa Barbara
Vermeer’s paintings of figures engaged in quiet activities are masterpieces of silence. They have also been described as “stilled lives.” This lecture discusses Vermeer’s “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter” in relation to contemporaneous concerns about the passage of time, and its measurement.
Ann Jensen Adams is a professor and graduate advisor at UC Santa Barbara, department of the history of art and architecture. Her research includes 17th century Dutch art, particularly portraiture, and the impact upon imagery of early modern developments in natural history.
Saturday, June 13 at 11 a.m.
Free Family Fun
Tall Tales at the Timken
Bring your kids to explore Vermeer’s “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter” – a famous painting from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam that has never traveled to San Diego before. Professional storyteller Harlynne Geisler will weave fanciful tales around this masterwork that was created 350 years ago. Ages 5+ are welcome. No reservations required.
Wednesday, June 24 at 12:30 p.m.
Art in the Afternoon Gallery Talk
“The Unseen Window in Vermeer’s “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter”
Speaker: Karen Hellman, assistant curator, department of photographs, J. Paul Getty Museum
Although the canvases of Vermeer were created two centuries prior to the invention of photography, their quiet, luminous depictions of interior scenes have often been related to “photographic” qualities. This presentation discusses a few ways in which photography can offer a new lens through which to view “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter.”
Karen Hellman is an assistant curator in the department of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. She is the curator of the exhibitions, “In Focus: Picturing Landscape” (2012), “At the Window: The Photographer’s View” (2013), and “In Focus: Ansel Adams” (2014). Currently she is working on a forthcoming exhibition “In Focus: Daguerreotypes” (fall 2015). She received her master’s in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, in 2004, and she received her doctorate in art history from The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, in 2010.
Wednesday, July 1 at 12:30 p.m.
Art in the Afternoon Gallery Talk
“Discordant Serenity and the Painting of Vermeer”
Speaker: Claudine Dixon, curatorial administrator, prints and drawings, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Vermeer’s “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter” will be discussed in the context of some of the historical and contemporary events surrounding the painting and its fantastic journey from 17th century Delft in the Netherlands to recent visits to Southern California. The writings of various authors, including essayist Lawrence Weschler and poet W. H. Auden, offer variant paths to consider thoughts and musings about history and art, allowing us to look at our relationship to this picture and think about a perspective that lies beyond the painted surface.
Claudine Dixon is the curatorial administrator for the department of prints and drawings at the LACMA. Before joining LACMA, Claudine worked at the UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at the Hammer Museum. In addition to museum positions, she has taught art history courses for UCLA Extension, most notably on German art of the 19th and 20th centuries, and Rembrandt and Dutch art of the 17th century.
Monday, July 13 at 10 a.m.
“The Interior Life of Vermeer”
Speaker: Amy Walsh, curator of European paintings, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Gallery talks feature leading curators, historians, scholars, and artists. Guests will walk, talk, and explore the Timken collection and special exhibitions. Registration is not required.
For more events and details about “The Private World of Vermeer,” visit TimkenMuseum.org or call (619) 239-5548.
About the Timken Museum of Art
Affectionately called San Diego’s “jewel box” of fine art, the Timken Museum of Art is located in San Diego’s historic Balboa Park on the Plaza de Panama. It is the permanent home of the Putnam Foundation’s significant collection of European old masters, 19th century American art and Russian icons. Notable works in the collection include Rembrandt’s “Saint Bartholomew” (the only painting by the Dutch artist on public display in San Diego; currently on loan returning late 2015); Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “Parable of the Sower;” John Singleton Copley’s “Portrait of Mrs. Thomas Gage;” Eastman Johnson’s classic “The Cranberry Harvest” and “Island of Nantucket;” and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s “View of Volterra.”
Known as one of the finest small museums in the world, the Timken Museum of Art celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015, and provides visitors with an accessible and enriching cultural experience featuring a beautiful collection, intimate surroundings, and free admission.