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Art Review: Vermeer's 'Woman in Blue Reading a Letter' now on Exhibit at National Gallery of Art

By Kevin Klenkel

The National Gallery in Washington DC is not only one of the best collections of fine art in the world, it is completely free to the public.  Along with its awe-inspiring permanent collection, there are several traveling exhibits that currently grace the museum. 

Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter is now on display until Dec. 1 along with the three permanent installations in the gallery.  Vermeer, an undisputed master, only has 34 paintings.  On loan from the Rijksmuseum for the first time to DC in nearly 20 years, any fan of art will agree this must be seen in person. 

The most exciting and crowded exhibit is Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye.  This extensive collection is mesmerizing.  His work is rival to all great impressionists.  He is set apart from his peers by his choices in subject matter.  Though he dabbled in waterscapes and nature, his most alluring work was his scenes of Paris as well as his still life paintings.  From a wealthy family, Caillebotte did not need his work commissioned so he had greater freedom in his subjects. 

He is most famous for his scenes from his time in Paris, which include The Floor Scrapers and Paris Street, Rainy Day.  Digital images simply do not do the works justice.  Caillebotte had the ability to capture more reality than a photograph.  He successfully turned the mundane into magnificence.

The collection of still life paintings were simply astonishing.  Described as a space where “beauty and brutality commingled” the collection was unique to say the least.  The stroke of the brush and the blend of colors will forever be burned in the viewer’s mind.  Forever blessed to be able to recollect that beauty can be found in the insipid.