Artist in His Studio, The (diptych)
| Image Notes
Diptych, two canvases. Left: New York Artist in His Studio. Right: Vermeer's The Artist in His Studio" (The Art of Painting).
Vermeer, The Art of Painting, ca. 1666-67, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
The model in New York Artist in His Studio is Elizabeth Rectanus.
For the right half of this complex and impressive diptych, Deem replicated, at actual size, Vermeer's masterpiece, The Artist in His Studio (The Art of Painting) (ca. 1666-67). In order to call the viewer's attention to the "truth" about what he or she is seeing, however, Deem left a border of unpainted canvas. At left, he repeated Vermeer's composition but altered the details. The map of Holland is exchanged for one of the United States (surrounded by images of American museums); the curtain becomes an American quilt; the sixteenth-century chairs are now modern; and the female model trades her gown, book, and horn for a Japanese kimono, a copy of the Yellow Pages, and a telephone. Completing the transfer, the artist, who may or may not be Vermeer in the original, morphs into Deem himself. (David Dearinger, exhibition wall text, George Deem: The Art of Art History, The Boston Athenaeum, April 11 - September 1, 2012).
George Deem's (1936 (sic) -- ) "Diptych: The Artist in his Studio" (1979) plays on the work of the 17th century Dutch artist Vermeer (PLATES 6a and 6b). In an updated version of Vermeer's "Interior with an Artist Painting a Model," we see a modern hanging light fixture, a map of the United States, the model holds a telephone and telephone book, a newspaper sits on the table, the curtain has become a patchwork quilt. In this dialogue between Deem and the Old Master, there are also modern chairs and parquet floor. A video monitor shows the back of the artist sitting on the stool in front of the easel. The video camera perhaps enables the artist to paint his own back and so to include himself in the painting. Yet Deem himself states: "If the painter in Vermeer's 'Artist in his Studio' is in fact a representation of Vermeer himself, as several writers have suggested, then Vermeer presumably would have used a male model for his painting. I, in fact, did not make use of a video camera to obtain the image of myself. All my images are from photographs" (private correspondence, March 27th, 1995). Not only, then, is the studio potentially boundless in space; it is also boundless in time. Deem's studio becomes an extension of Vermeer's studio. (Rae Anderson, "The Artist's Studio as a Space of Creativity," Canadian Review of Art Education (Revue canadienne d'education artistque), 22:1, Concordia University, Montreal, 1995
George Deem in his diptych The Artist in His Studio pays homage to Jan Vermeer. Deem, who has often borrowed the great seventeenth-century Dutch painter's imagery, refers specifically in this diptych to Vermeer's Interior with an Artist Painting a Model. ...Deem unites the Vermeer image in one canvas of the diptych with an updated version of it in the other. In the updated version, he substitutes a modern artist, presumably himself, for Vermeer. ...And, in portraying himself from the rear in the act of painting, as Vermeer did, he implies that his work and the actual process of painting are more important to him (and to us) than is his self-image. (Frank H. Goodyear, Jr., Contemporary American Realism since 1960, New York Graphic Society/Little Brown and Company, Boston, 1981).
| Artist's Notes
For my diptych The Artist in His Studio, my first step was to make an exact copy of Vermeer's The Artist in His Studio. I made it the actual size of Vermeer's painting but placed it within a border of unpainted canvas. The point of the border is to isolate Vermeer's painting as an image which I am "quoting" as part of my diptych. Vermeer's The Artist in His Studio is also known by the title The Art of Painting. Dated 1662-65, the painting is in the collection of the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum. It is one of Vermeer's largest paintings, measuring 48 x 40 inches. The painting is of an interior with no corners of the room showing and no windows. The black-and-white tile floor is a familiar element in many of Vermeer's paintings, as are the wooden beams which define the ceiling. A large tapestry hangs up front at the left. Behind the tapestry is a velvet upholstered chair in front of a table. The articles on the table include a large book standing upright, a plaster mask, a ribbon, a partly unrolled manuscript, and some fabric hanging over the edge of the table. To the right of the table, the artist, with his back to the viewer, is seated on a stool at his easel. He holds a mahlstick and, in his right hand, a brush. In the canvas on the easel the artist has painted the leaves of the wreath worn by the model. The artist depicted here may or may not be Vermeer himself. Beyond the table, and to the artist's left, the model, wearing a wreath on her head, stands holding a large yellow book in the crook of her left arm and a trombone-like horn in her right hand. There is a large map hanging on the wall behind the model. Under the map, on the right, a second chair stands against the wall. Overhead, a chandelier hangs from a rafter.
The oher painting in my diptych, the painting on the left, is The New York Artist in His Studio. It is painted the same size as Vermeer's The Artist in His Studio and with a matching unpainted border. The elements in Vermeer's painting are repeated but with a different palette. Vermeer's map is a map of Holland with illustrations of Dutch cities in the ovals of the border. My map is a map of the United States with American art museums depicted in the corresponding ovals. The chair placed against the back wall under the map is a canvas director's chair. The model wears a model's purple kimono. She holds the yellow pages of the New York telephone directory and in her right hand, instead of the horn, a telephone. The New York artist works under an electric light suspended from a pressed-tin ceiling. Vermeer's tapestry has been replaced by a down-home American quilt. The artist seated at the easel works with the same tools and equipment used by the artist in Vermeer's painting: the same easel, the same stool, the same brush and mahlstick. These things have not changed. The articles on the table have changed. The bulky manuscript on Vermeer's table is now the New York Times. Instead of fabric piled on the table, there is a green winter downcoat and a red-and-white striped scarf. The book has become a video monitor, on the screen of which the artist, seated with his back to the video camera, sees himself in the act of painting. In this painting, I am the artist in his studio. (George Deem May 27, 1989).
In December (1977), while on a Fellowship at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, I came upon the thought of copying Vermeer's Artist in His Studio as perfectly as possible. (notebook 1978)
In 1979 I completed the copy of An Artist in His Studio. Vermeer applied his paint evenly and smoothly, using a raw umber underpainting. The final details were applied after the entire painting was realized and these details build up their own impasto which is a treat for the eye to see.
New York Vermeer (working title for The New York Artist in His Studio) has now a purple and yellow quilt. It is going well. I glazed the white wall in the background with a cool (blue) gray (artists's parenthesis) made from raw sienna and cobalt blue. Both colors are transparent glazing colors. It makes everything much more of an illusion. (George Deem, Friday (Unpublished notebook entry, July 14, 1978 transcribed and annotated by Ronald Vance, 2012)
Today on New York Vermeer I am making the tone for things from Antwerp Blue, Raw Sienna and white. Antwerp Blue makes a New York light. (Unpublished notebook entry, October 1978).
Sneed Gallery, Rockford, Illinois
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, New York
The Boston Athenaeum, Boston, Massachusetts
Evansville Museum of Arts and Science, Evansville, Indiana
The Greenberg Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri
Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, Pennsylvania