OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Paintings of Dutch painter Vermeer linked to globalization in lecture

02/12/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Timothy Brook, a professor of history at the University of British Columbia, will link the artwork of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer with globalization when he presents a lecture on Thursday, March 4, at Oregon State University.

“The Coins on Vermeer’s Table: Dutch Merchants, Chinese Manufacturers, and the Birth of Global Trade” begins at 7 p.m. in the Construction & Engineering Auditorium of LaSells Stewart Center. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Vermeer was known for his luminous depictions of the domestic middle class. His work has inspired other artists in literature, music and film, notably the “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” which was made into a film in 2005 starring Oscar nominee Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson.

A closer look at his paintings reveals that they are full of objects that point to the world beyond the frame: glass goblets from Venice, blue-and-white bowls from China, coins of Peruvian silver – all reminding Dutch viewers that their wealth reached them via a vast network of trade spanning the world.

Looking at old masters in new ways, Brook’s talk will shed light on how tumultuous these scenes really are, and how Vermeer’s paintings reflect how the world of globalization in which we live was at just this moment becoming reality. The Web site Essential Vermeer provides a compelling look at the objects inside Vermeer’s work, and the history woven deeply into every painting.

Brook’s main area of expertise is Chinese history. “The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China” (University of California Press, 1998) was awarded the J.R. Levenson Prize in 2000. Other publications include “Quelling the People: The Military Suppression of the Beijing Democracy Movement” (Oxford University Press, 1992) and “Collaboration: Japanese Agents and Chinese Elites on the Yangtze Delta” (Harvard University Press, 2004). More recently, he has published “Vermeer’s Hat.”

The George and Dorothy Carson History Lecture is made possible by a private endowment and brings scholars of international standing to OSU. The series was founded in honor of the late George Carson, for many years professor of Russian history at OSU, and his wife Dorothy.