Counterfeiter of grace - review by Lawrence Gowing of "Vermeer and his milieu" - a web of social history, John Michael Montias; relevant literature published since 1970. Part 1: Johannes Vermeer of Delft; notes. Part 2: the pictures, a list and commentary.
Listed in "The New York Times" as one of the 100 best non-fiction books of the 20th century as selected by a panel of the Modern Library, a division of Random House.
Sir Lawrence Gowing, who died in 1991, was one of the most penetrating and inspiring art-historians of his time, writing prolifically on a multitude of subjects from Masaccio, Bruegel, Goya and Turner to Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso and Francis Bacon. He was also a painter with an international reputation. No one has written more convincingly on the theme of creativity in art. He was, among other things, Slade Professor of Fine Art at University College London from 1975 to 1985 and Curatorial Chairman of the Phillips Collection in Washington from 1987 to 1989. Recent books include Lucien Freud (1982) and Paul Cezanne: the Early Years (1988). His three series of television films featuring nine great masters in all between 1984 and 1988, some of them now available as videos, brought his genius into contact with the general public.
Chosen in 1999 as one of Random House Modern Library's 100 best non-fiction books of the 20th century 'There are writings on art which are destined to remain valid, even when the evidence on which they were originally based has meanwhile been revised or expanded...Lawrence Gowing's monograph on Vermeer...belongs to this class...This multi-layered reading of the oeuvre surely remains unaffected by the progressive expansion of our knowledge that has occurred in the intervening years.' Professor Sir Ernst Gombrich in his preface to the third edition 'Gowing's text remains the single best sustained piece of critical writing in English that exists on Vermeer.' Svetlana Alpers, 1997 'Art books are rarely works of art. To this rule, Professor Gowing's Vermeer is a great exception and one is grateful for this new edition ...It constitutes one of the most perfect extended pieces of stylistic criticism to emerge in recent years...The total book casts so many shafts of illumination not only on to the nature of Vermeer's art, but on art itself, that it will reward reading and re-reading.' Alistair Smith in Museums Journal '...finely balanced between painterly -- almost poetic -- insight and factual scholarship...it is undoubtedly the best and most profound book on Vermeer in the English language...His analysis of Vermeer's temperament and the nature of his genius as revealed in his work is very impressive and stimulating.' John Berger on the first edition