Daily Archives: July 16, 2012

Master Remix

There’s an interesting exhibition at the Boston Athenaeum this summer featuring some of the major works of George Deem, an artist who mastered painting the masters–in his own variant ways.  Deem (1932-2008) was so fascinated with the works of Mantegna, Caravaggio, Matisse, Picasso, and most especially Vermeer, that he repainted them in an engaging manner that not only plays with art–but also with time.  The exhibition, entitled George Deem:  the Art of Art History, features 30 paintings that focus on Deem’s re-worked and re-imagined Vermeers as well as those of several eminent American artists, like the provocative School of Sargent, below.

George Deem, School of Sargent (1986).  Private Collection, Stamford, CT.

I find this painting particularly captivating:  it really looks like Madame Gautreau is gazing at The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit and they back at her!  Odd to have such iconic ladies in the same picture together. Another Deem take on the Boit girls is below, along with George Washington and his Portrait (1972), based on the Gilbert Stuart portrait. I really like both the idea and the image of this painting.

George Deem, George Washington and his Portrait (1972).  Collection of the Boston Athenaeum; Sargent Vermeer (2007).  Private Collection, Hartford, CT.

Living in an expansionistic age, Johannes Vermeer incorporated maps into the backgrounds of several of his paintings and Deem brings the map into the foreground in Vermeer’s Map and the near-foreground in A Stool, a Chair, and a Map, and a few other Vermeer-inspired paintings.

George Deem, Vermeer’s Map (1982).  Private Collection, Falls Church, Virginia; A Stool, a Chair, and a Map (2003). Estate of George Deem.

As one who has spent lots of time drinking in every little detail of Vermeer paintings, I can understand Deem’s obsession with Vermeer (about whom he has also written a book: How to Paint a Vermeer:  a Painter’s History of Art, 2004) and it is fun to see these background details (like The Red Chair, below) fill the frame.

George Deem, The Red Chair (2002).  Private Collection, West Hartford, CT.