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Through a Glass Darkly: Vermeer and the Camera Obscura

Lecture on Monday 7th February 2022 at 1:45PM

Lecturer: Rupert Dickens

The tranquil and meditative paintings of Johannes Vermeer are among the best-loved artworks in the world. Relatively little is known about the master from Delft but that has not deterred a torrent of publications about him, both fictional and scholarly. One of the most hotly debated topics in Vermeer literature is his supposed use of the camera obscura. We will tackle this controversy head on by investigating the history of optical devices in art and examining the latest theories on Vermeer’s technique. It will be a great opportunity to look at Vermeer’s beguiling body of work afresh through a different lens.

Rupert Dickens is an art historian based in south London with a special interest in Dutch and Flemish 16th and 17th century painting. He works at the Wallace Collection as a guide conducting public and private tours and lecturing on aspects of the collection. Rupert is also a tour director for a Cambridge-based company accompanying groups on art-themed tours to the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Austria and Italy. He has lectured to large audiences on subjects as diverse as the game of chess in art and Madame de Pompadour’s artistic patronage in 18th century France. He studied art history at Birkbeck College before undertaking a Masters in Dutch Golden Age Studies at University College London. Before that Rupert had a 26-year career as a BBC journalist ending as an editor in radio news.

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