- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2002

The Johannes Vermeer craze never seems to stop, and once again the National Gallery of Art comes to the rescue of those wanting more about the revered 17th-century Dutch painter.

The hourlong film, "Vermeer: Master of Light," with narration by Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep, airs at 5 p.m. today on WHUT (Channel 32) and again at 1 p.m. Monday. The documentary also can be seen at 4 p.m. tomorrow on WETA (Channel 26).

The museum owns three paintings by Vermeer: "Woman Holding a Balance" (circa 1664), "Girl With the Red Hat" (circa 1665-66) and "A Lady Writing" (circa 1665).

"Woman Holding a Balance" and "A Lady Writing" are among the artist's most arresting works. His best works are of women alone in rooms, illuminated by a light from outside. Through his superb use of light, Vermeer created a magic and mystery in these small canvases unequaled by any other painter.

The gallery showed 21 of the 35 Vermeer works that survive in its attendance-breaking exhibit, "Johannes Vermeer," in late 1995 and early 1996.

Film producer and director Joseph Krakora, gallery executive officer for external and international affairs, engaged technical experts such as Tony Black to use new X-ray analysis, infrared reflectography and digital technologies for "Master of Light."

"We want to look at great art in new and different ways and show the fresh revelations to the public," Mr. Krakora says.

Magnification shows extraordinary detail, even in a tiny work such as "Girl With the Red Hat" (9 by 7-1/16 inches). It shows the way Vermeer used some white on the girl's lips, placed a turquoise highlight near her eye and glanced light off the feathers of the flame-red hat.

"When we filmed the opening footage in Delft in March of last year, we were trying to capture its light and spirit. We wanted to shoot a five-minute introduction to Vermeer's paintings, something to help decompress you," Mr. Krakora says.

"It rained for seven days straight, and our hotel rooms began to feel like wet, soggy closets. Finally, on March 20, a front came through, the sun came out, the clouds began to roll, and we got the light we were trying for."

Since its release in November, the film has won several awards and will be included in the International Festival of Films on Art in March in Montreal.

The first National Gallery-produced film was "Ginevra's Story," which also garnered several awards.

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