Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675),
Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), "The Music Lesson," 1662, oil, 29.1 x 25.4 in.

In “Tim’s Vermeer,” an inventor goes to incredible lengths to test his theories of how Vermeer so beautifully painted “The Music Lesson.”

Sometimes, TV streaming services seem to have no idea who we are or what we want to watch and the algorithms seem completely arbitrary. Then, they surprise us, as Hulu did for me last night when I glanced at the “Suggested For You” section, which I normally ignore because of its frequent irrelevance.

This time, a 2013 documentary titled “Tim’s Vermeer” showed up, and after reading the description I watched the trailer. It seemed promising.


Tim Jenison is not a painter, but in this movie, he shows us – step by obsessive step – how he recreated Johannes Vermeer’s iconic painting, “The Music Lesson.” While the painting itself took months, his passion project spanned eight years.

A scene from "Tim's Vermeer"
A scene from “Tim’s Vermeer.” Jenison had objects recreated (such as this piece of pottery), or he used his skills in technology to recreate it himself for total accuracy (such as the room itself, including the ornamental windows).

Jenison is an inventor who explores technology, and he was determined to discover if Vermeer used tech to create art that seems more realistic than reality, with a vision not of a human, but of a tool.

Tim Jenison experimenting with tools that Vermeer may have used to create such beautiful paintings
Tim Jenison experimenting with tools that Vermeer may have used to create such beautiful paintings

He went to the lengths of renting a warehouse and recreating a room with incredible details that matched that of “The Music Lesson,” the tested his theory.

“Tim’s Vermeer” is co-hosted by Penn Jillette (it is a “Penn and Teller film” and worth noting that Penn is good friends with Tim; I’m sure they appreciate each other’s interest in discovering new things, testing reality, perceptions, and the human mind), and includes interviews with David Hockney.

The movie is fascinating, and it’s available on Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies & TV, Apple TV, and Vudu. Check it out, then come back here and share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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  1. I did enjoy watching this. Many of us saw the movie “Girl with the Pearl Earring”. Which touched on Vermeer’s secret use of camera obscura and lenses, but more on his relationship with the girl who mixed his paint. It’s fascinating how it is observed, what is really there, in other words, what is missing in Vermeer’s canvases is an under drawing or sketch, that most artists use. He proved the way Vermeer painted. Interesting there is no historical proof. He took the secrets to his grave, including not sharing it with his family or models or other painters of the era.

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