Vermeer Masterpiece Headed for Los Angeles

The Dutch painter's "Women in Blue Reading a Letter" set for a six-week Getty run.

By Alysia Gray Painter
|  Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013  |  Updated 11:24 AM PDT
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Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

A detail of Vermeer's "Woman in Blue Reading a Letter." The masterpiece will be on display at the Getty Museum from Feb. 16 through March 31. (On loan from the city of Amsterdam)

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The reputation that artists and their work develop centuries after they lived are rather remarkable.

Some names rise, some distinctly do not, and some people take on a nearly mythical status in the art world. 

Johannes Vermeer is a bold name in that final category. The 17th-century Dutch painter's modern-day fans are, in a word, legion. Arthouse films have celebrated his legacy -- remember the elegant little gem "All the Vermeers in New York"? -- and a Vermeer traveling to another city is quite the cause for ballyhoo.

And there shall be deserved ballyhoo in Brentwood when the master's "Woman in Blue Reading a Letter" makes a six-week appearance. The work, on loan from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, will be at the Getty Museum from Saturday, Feb. 16 through Sunday, March 31.

The title is beautifully descriptive, succinctly revealing two of the principle things people love about Vermeer: his affection for everyday domestic doings and his singular use of color. And consider, too, that blue isn't simply the hue of the woman's frock. The chairs, the table, and the wall-hanging holder all are lightly cobalt.

It's worth considering, too, that documenting simple acts such as reading a letter was a rather radical subject choice (a sometimes difficult idea to remember, in a day when millions of us document our breakfast and trip to the market through shared photos).

The painting has seen a bit of the world, and Los Angeles is its final stop. (It's also the painting's first trip to the western U.S., the Getty notes). The quiet masterpiece will be returned to Amsterdam in April for the opening of the Rijksmuseum.

image: Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, Johannes Vermeer, about 1663–64. Oil on canvas, 18 5/16 x 15 3/8 in. (49.6 x 40.3 cm). Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. On loan from the City of Amsterdam (A. van der Hoop Bequest)

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