“This book is a treasure and a guide. It is a type of healing for the intellect and the heart.” - (Rebecca Lee)
A lyrical and intimate account of how a poet, in the midst of a bad divorce, finds consolation and grace through viewing the paintings of Vermeer, in six world cities. In the midst of a divorce (in which the custody of his young daughter is at stake) and over the course of a year, the poet Michael White, travels to Amsterdam, The Hague, Delft, London, Washington, and New York to view the paintings of Johannes Vermeer, an artist obsessed with romance and the inner life. He is astounded by how consoling it is to look closely at Vermeer’s women, at the artist’s relationship to his subjects, and at how composition reflects back to the viewer such deep feeling. Includes the author’s very personal study of Vermeer. Through these travels and his encounters with Vermeer’s radiant vision, White finds grace and personal transformation.
"White brings [sensitivity] to his luminous readings of the paintings. An enchanting book about the transformative power of art." - (Kirkus Reviews)
"… Figures it took a poet to get it this beautifully, thrillingly right.” - (Peter Trachtenberg)
"A unique dance among genres...clear and powerful descriptions touch on the mysteries of seduction, loss, and the artistic impulse." - (Clyde Edgerton)
A poet by trade, White (Vermeer in Hell), confronts ideas about love and loss after being awestruck by Vermeer's Milkmaid in the Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam. Thus begins a personal quest to visit most of the Vermeer paintings in the world and see how they affect him or not. In the course of this raw memoir, White travels to The Hague, Washington D.C., New York, and London to study Vermeer's paintings up close and in detail. His readings of the paintings are insightful and reflect his emotion at experiencing firsthand the capability of Vermeer's genius. Through his eyes, readers see why The Guitar Player is "disconcerting" but The Music Lesson is "intoxicating." Between museum visits, White explains how his divorce, the death of his first wife, and his history as a recovering alcoholic inform his ideas about eternity and the focus of love. We follow him along on several dates and see how his personal experience with romance and love influences his vulnerability to art. Although there are no illustrations in the book, White's extensive descriptions will inspire readers to seek out the paintings to further study Vermeer's motifs and technique. Through his obsession with Vermeer, White has crafted a powerful and affecting memoir that reminds us how art can be salvation.