| By Andrea Drouillard |
Detroit artist Sydney James’ latest mural “The Girl with the D Earring” is a modern twist on one of her favorite paintings by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”
James was recently interviewed and asked about the power of murals. She said that when art is given in a public space, unintentional viewers are given a museum experience outside.1 I love that notion of accessibility and the limitless responses public art can elicit in the viewers. James’ mural inspired me to learn more about Vermeer’s painting, which belongs to a Dutch style of idealized, sometimes overly expressive paintings known as tronies.2
Quarantine has sparked a new interest in iconic artworks. “The Netherlands social account Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine—which translates to ‘between art and quarantine’— has been sharing amazing recreations for months.”3 I found many recreations of “The Girl with a Pearl Earring” on the Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine Instagram site. Here’s an example:
I’ve enjoyed seeing examples of teachers engaging their students through these challenges. One teacher has used the challenge to teach his students about master painters and encouraged them to recreate art for the Getty Museum Challenge. In doing so, he also deepened his own practice by using his iPad and a software program he didn’t know very well. My cousin teaches art for grades 5–12 and shared with me that the dive into art history supports the fourth standard of the VPAA requirements (Michigan), Analyzing in Context. She thinks the Getty Challenge works well with online visual arts learning/teaching because the project encourages students to independently search their environment for materials that they can be creative with.
1. Podcast, “The Power of Murals and Public Art: A Conversation with Artist and Detroit Native Sydney James,” The Craig Fahle Show on Deadline Detroit, August 27, 2020.
2. Manioudaki, Anastasia, “What Is a Tronie? Famous Examples of Tronies in Dutch and Flemish Baroque.” DailyArt Magazine.com, Art History 101, May 30, 2020.
3. Barnes, Sara, “Dutch Instagram Account Has People Recreating Famous Artworks While in Quarantine,” My Modern Met, May 7, 2020.
4. “Jan Vermeer,” Art and Artists, Gale In Context: Elementary.
5. TED-Ed Lesson, Earle, James, “Why is Vermeer’s ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’ considered a masterpiece?”, TED-Ed Animations.