The Astronomer, finished about 1668 by the painter Johannes Vermeer, is an oil on canvas on display at the Louvre, Paris.
Vermeer worked slowly with great care using bright colors and expensive pigments with a strong preference for lapis lazuli. He is particularly renowned for his masterly use of light in his work.
I recently watched a documentary called Tim's Vermeer about a modern attempt to explain Vermeer's uncanny harnessing of color and light through the use of lenses, mirrors and prisms. Tim Jenison, a Texas based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in all art: How did the 17th century Dutch Master ("Girl with a Pearl Earring") manage to paint so photo-realistically...150 years before the invention of photography?
Tim, the film's protagonist, was unsatisfied with the leading explanations and obsessed with solving the mystery until one day:
"Sitting in the bath tub, that's where I guess you have your eureka moments...something about bath water you know it's just very relaxing...I was just picturing that mirror hanging in space and I pictured what I would see, and there it was. So I grabbed a piece of paper and was careful not to get it wet, made a sketch. I realized Vermeer could have used a mirror to pair this paintings."
A quintisential Blue Mind moment in the bath tub, leading to a creative breakthrough into a deeper understanding of a creative, technical, and artistic master.
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