Monday, August 18, 2008

a contemporary vermeer: edward j. (ted) reed @ the art league

Excitement is building over The Art League's upcoming September exhibition featuring the solo works of painter Edward J. (Ted) Reed ( This author is the first to call Reed, with solid justification, "The Contemporary Vermeer."

Vermeer was a Dutch Baroque painter who specialized in ordinary domestic interior scenes, he is arguably most known by his work "Girl With a Pearl Earring." Although largely unrecognized while alive, Vermeer's work is now acknowledged as one of the greatest of the Dutch Golden Age. He is particularly famed for his use of light and masterly technique. Vermeer is said to have worked slowly, probably producing three paintings a year during which he produced unique transparent colors by applying paint to the canvas in somewhat loosely granular layers (a technique called pointillé).

Vermeer's works all contain distinctive and certain light and perspective effects including the earth colours umber and ochre which are understood as warm light within the painting's interior and which reflect multiple colors onto the background. Vermeer's works exemplify an understanding of Da Vinci's observations that the surface of every object absorbs the color of the adjacent object.

So too, we find modern day painter Reed seemingly unaware that he is channeling the spirit of Vermeer (but hopefully not the Dutch painter's financial troubles) in the former's acclaimed portraiture studies. Three of many masterful works are shown above: Louder (Pippi Takes a Ride), 46 x 28, oil on linen, 2006; Annalise, 15 x 15, oil on canvas, 2003; and Vigilant, 17 x 15, oil on canvas, 2005.

Reed, (known as Ted), lives in Vienna, Virginia and paints in his home studio. He teaches portrait, figure, and still-life painting at The Art League School. Reed won a variety of collegiate level awards. Sadly, from 1987 to 1989, while attending Harvard Law School, he stopped painting in the misguided belief that the demands of a legal education required him to forego all distractions. While practicing law, he rarely lifted a paintbrush.

They say gifts are embedded in life's hardships. Ted became disabled with a permanent, chronic pain condition and was forced to retire from legal practice at the end of 2000. The hidden gift was that in 2001, he began painting again to the extent that his disability allowed. His return to art was difficult. The pain he experiences was and is a constant impediment. Additionally, the decade of art talent neglect had stripped him of the few skills he'd developed through his college years.

By 2003, Reed began teaching art intermittently and in the fall of 2004, The Art League asked him to join the faculty. It is easy to understand how his newly re-found dedication has manifested itself through Reed's artist statement. Like Vermeer, Reed is captivated by people. Individual portraits dominate most of Reed's work to date and will continue to comprise a large part of his artistic efforts.

Reed says his work couples the structure of classical portrait and figure painting with clear, brilliant colors rarely seen in traditional or contemporary works in these fields. He portrays what he finds most compelling about his subjects’ character and personality through expression, gesture, setting, composition, color, and brushwork. We believe the devil's in the detail, and in Reed's work, the angel's in the light. Any lover of Vermeer can gaze for hours at streams of sunlight radiating through an open window, or streams of light hitting a balancing scale. For us, the light is the love of the work and is the most captivating aspect of it.

Reed likes to work from life whenever possible. This generates energy (or light) unachievable through other means. To bolster this energy, he rarely asks subjects to hold still, unlike Vermeer who is argued to have possibly used camera obscura as a technique method in captivating exactness. People reveal themselves to Reed when they relax, talk, and laugh. Because of their movement, he may catch a mouth at one angle and eyes, or other features, at a slightly different angle and this also is in direct contrast to Vermeer's stillness, stiffness, motionlessness, and rigidity. But still, there is the light and particularly, the light of the face. Pop a pearl earring on Annalise and you can't tell me you don't have the modern Mona Lisa of the North. Reed paints light shifts as faithful depictions of parts of the same person at different moments and this creates for him and for the viewer, both movement and a sense of timelessness.

Reed attributes his style to a dependence upon classical structure inspired by the works of John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Carravaggio, and traditions of realism tracing back to the Renaissance masters and it's interesting to Alexandria's Shauna Lee Lange Arts Advisory that he's not yet drawn the parallel to the Dutch masters.

The rich, vibrant colors Reed adds enhance his paintings’ emotional impact and this is in direct correlation with Vermeer's style. In fact, many scholars believe Vermeer must have been gifted paint (often expensive material paint) by virtue of the artist's poverty and indebtedness. However, Vermeer is credited with the detailed application of paint layers and color infusion. Reed, on the other hand, draws inspiration from the paintings of Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, who he believes is perhaps his greatest influence, and also from the optics of direct color application explored by the impressionists.

Vermeer is said to have painted slowly. For Reed, injuries to his hands, which disabled him from a former legal career, cause chronic pain that ensures he will never be as prolific as other artists. Across time, the silvery cord that binds and ties all art lovers has magically united Reed with Vermeer. Both are said to cherish each moment they paint and both are driven to achieve as much as they can with each work. Well, why don't you just come and see for yourself.

In The Art League Gallery:

Exhibit Dates: September 5 – October 6, 2008

Opening Reception:
Thursday, September 11: 6:30 – 8:00 pm

Mr. Reed will give demonstrations, painting from a model in the gallery on the following dates:
Saturday, September 13, 12:00 noon - 3:00 pm
Saturday, September 20, 12:00 noon - 3:00 pm

Sunday, October 5, 1:00 - 4:00 pm

New Gallery Hours:
Monday – Saturday, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sunday, 12:00 noon – 6:00 pm
Open every Thursday evening until 9:00 pm.

Exhibitions and events are free and open to the public.