Art: Vermeer Controversy

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To many connoisseurs the question, "Is it a good painting?'' does not occur until they have asked, "Is it genuine?" Last week such connoisseurs took note, with panic or delight, of a controversy which concerned a painting called The Guitar Player, executed long ago by famed Jan Vermeer der Delft; a painting of a young girl seated in a diffused golden light, her fingers quiet upon silent strings. One Guitar Player was bought in London in 1896 by John G. Johnson and has reposed, since his death, with the rest of his collection in his Philadelphia house. Last week, British connoisseurs who viewed the collection of Lord Iveagh, shown to the public in London last week, discovered another Guitar Player, very similar to the Guitar Player in the Johnson collection. This they said with one accord, was the genuine Vermeer; the painting in the U. S. was a replica, a copy, an imitation, anything except the original Guitar Player by Jan Vermeer der Delft.

The curious death of Jan Vermeer der Delft has in some part, been responsible for recent arguments about his works. A popular young painter, it was his misfortune to have lived in Delft in a studio near the site of a powder magazine. This, one disastrous day in 1675, exploded, removing all trace of Jan Vermeer, together with the majority of his works. In the excitement of losing so much good gunpowder, it was possible for people to forget the loss of an artist. The few of his paintings, about 40, which were not destroyed, remained obscure until 1871 when they came to the attention of one Thore-Burger, an intelligent connoisseur. Noting the brilliant detail, the warm true precision, the clear light which was poured into them like gold, he brought the paintings of Jan Vermeer to public attention by buying many of them for himself.

Since that time, due to their beauty and their scarcity, Vermeers have brought large prices from dealers. The 200-year period in which no attention was paid them has naturally caused arguments to arise as to the authenticity of some. Hitherto, the Johnson Guitar Player has been unanimously regarded as genuine. It is still so regarded by many able American collectors & connoisseurs.

On View

The First Annual Exhibit of paintings, drawings and sculptures by U. S. Negro artists, held under the auspices of the Harmon Foundation & the race-relations committee of the Federal Council of Churches, opened in Manhattan. First prize—$400—in the Harmon Competition had been awarded to Laura Wheeler Waring, who showed, among her seven prize-winning paintings, two splendid portraits of Negro women; the one of a slick brown jane, the other of an old Negress whose face was ugly and sad.

To Brooklyn, from Pittsburgh, were brought the 360 paintings by 125 artists that formed the Carnegie Institute's 26th annual International Exhibition. After a month in Brooklyn, this, perhaps the most important current U. S. exhibit, will be sent to San Francisco.

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