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Meisje in hyacintblauw by Susan Vreeland
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Meisje in hyacintblauw (original 1999; edition 1999)

by Susan Vreeland, Wim Holleman

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,326612,710 (3.6)121
EMS_24's review
Ik hou van deze vorm.
Soms vraag je je bij een oud voorwerp of een oude boom af wat dat/die allemaal heeft 'meegemaakt'. Susan Vreeland heeft een mogelijkheid beschreven. En dan juist met een voorwerp dat mensen echt wat doet; dat ontstaan is door mensen voor mensen.
Is het een fictief schilderij, of is het verhaal geïnspireerd op 'meisje met waterkan'? (gezien voorwerpen die beschreven worden, een schilderij met duidelijk aquamarijn, de goudbruine haren. De kleur van de ogen en tijdstip van maken kloppen dan niet)
Het valt me op dat de verhalen vooral niet gaan over de welgestelden, terwijl het schilderij toch vaak wordt gekocht door hen.

Ik vraag me af hoe het boek zou lezen als je achterin zou beginnen en dus chronologisch voorwaarts gaat. Is dan de spanning er af waar het schilderij vandaan komt, of is de onbekende volgende bestemming even interressant? Herlezen geeft niet hetzelfde effect, vanwege voorkennis. Ik denk dat het ontstaan van het schilderij inderdaad achterin hoort, het (nu)eerste verhaal zou dan een afknapper zijn.

wat Susan Vreeland zelf schrijft:Likewise, paintings, especially those with people, affect me the same way and feed my imagination. Who sat as model for the artist? What was their relationship? Did any urge for physical intimacy pass between them or was their coming together at this moment in time merely a business transaction? Was there a deeper aesthetic collaboration? Was the painter sick with dread over how he would feed his family? What did his children want from him that day? Was his wife happy? Was he? Was he contented with his work? And for landscapes, what moved the artist so deeply that this particular place could serve as his illahee, the Chinook word meaning land that gives comfort?

Poring over the National Gallery catalog of the 1995-1996 Vermeer exhibition, I found tranquillity. His paintings of women in their homes caught in a reflective moment, and bathed in that lovely honey-colored light which also touched with significance the carefully chosen items in the scene, reminded me of Wordsworth's line: "...with an eye made quiet by the power/of harmony and the deep power of joy,/We see into the life of things." In Vermeer I saw my same reverence for artifacts and items made by someone unknown to him. It seemed not far different from being a person upon whom nothing was lost. Vermeer, I believe, was a lover of the connotations and qualities of things in his own domestic life--the luminous variations of pale colors in a hand-dipped window-pane, a woman's silk jacket with fur trim, the rough nap of a red Turkish carpet, the strong lines of a golden pitcher, a hand-drawn wall map. These items seemed to be offered to me for narrative purposes.

Looking at many Dutch paintings--genre scenes, portraits, and landscapes--I felt a growing love for a people and a place I could call mine. By virtue of my Dutch name, all those brave Dutchmen fending off flood on their fragile, sunken land were my kinsmen. But those complaisant matrons admiring their jewels, married to ship captains trading in African souls were my kinswomen too. A girl Vermeer painted crouching on a swept Delft street with her orange skirt ballooning out behind her like a pumpkin could have been me in another age. I felt Dutch. These paintings showed me my heritage alive with vitality and history and the endurance of beauty. The cords of connection tightened.

Vermeer painted only thirty-five or thirty-six canvases. There could have been one more, I reasoned, which survived the ravages of time. I constructed in my mind another painting incorporating elements he frequently used and added objects of my own imagination--a glass of milk left by a sickly child, a sewing basket, a young girl's new black shoes with square gold buckles. I had a painting--and with news reports of so much art stolen from Holocaust victims by members of the Third Reich, I had an idea for a story.

Not having fully realized the painting in that first story, I wrote another, this time from the point of view of the painted girl dressed in a blue smock, in my mind, Vermeer's daughter who longed to paint. That would set the second story in the 1660s. They were to be a pair of stories set into a collection of stories about many artists, historic and fictional. My writing group prompted me further: "Nice stories, Susan, but there's a lot of time in between. Can't you do something with it?" The pair of stories became bookends to Girl in Hycinth Blue, a novel about people who lived their defining moments in the presence of a beautiful painting. It launched me into a new life. I am humbled with gratitude. I hope that by writing art-related fiction, I might bring readers who may not recognize the enriching and uplifting power of art to the realization that it can serve them as it has so richly served me.

With the world so full of a number of paintings, I think I could go on and on until I meet the artists face to face. Oh, I do think it's the pleasantest thing ever a writer can do.
bron:
http://www.svreeland.com/bio.html

-------------------------------------------------​ ( )
  EMS_24 | Apr 19, 2012 |
All member reviews
Showing 1-25 of 61 (next | show all)
This was a lovely and evocative story. The tale traces the life of a painting by Vermeer, from its present-day hide-a-way as a painful yet beloved reminder of a father's Nazi past, to the love of the daughter who posed for the painting. Although the story and, indeed, the painting itself, is fiction, the vignettes ring true with the cares of everyday life graced by an appreciation of the painting's beauty. ( )
  wareagle78 | Mar 21, 2014 |
This book was not what I was expecting. It turned out to be a series of what were essentially vignettes going progessively back in time following the owners of a (supposed) Vermeer painting. Each chapter was therefore completely new characters, with the only commonality being the painting itself. I was hoping for a more traditional novel and this format did not hold my interest. I never felt compelled to move on to the next chapter, and so I just stopped reading it partway through. ( )
  sbsolter | Feb 6, 2014 |
Wonderful look at a piece of art and its history. Makes one wonder about the "history" of any particular piece of art or antique. If you enjoy this book, check out the movie "The Red Violin" - another "history". Loved the writing style. ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 16, 2013 |
I want something fluffy that can stand up to interruptions. This was in the used bookstore and I can leave it for my notstepmother when I leave.

This might not be as fluffy as I thought.

Because of their subject and close publication dates I associated this with Girl with a Pearl Earring, which I love, and thought this was the fluffier. Nope. The prose is lovely, the characters alive despite minimal description, the stories true. Love! ( )
  ljhliesl | May 21, 2013 |
Girl in Hyacinth Blue follows the path of a painting, possibly by Vermeer, from an aloof math professor backwards to the painter and the subject. Each owner has a different story to tell, and even a little bit of a different relationship to the painting, but they all love it and find echoes of something they feel inside themselves inside the painting. And isn't that sort of the point of truly great art?

The novel itself has the feel of a short story collection. Each chapter is about a different owner and is a complete story unto itself. The novel never feels choppy though. But--the writing. Beautiful. It lived up to the painting that I painted inside my head. I truly saw the landscapes Susan Vreeland paints with her words and I truly felt involved with each character's story.

If you love beautiful language, or you love beautiful art, read this book. It's just gorgeous. ( )
  JG_IntrovertedReader | Apr 3, 2013 |
I bought this book at least four years ago--before I was on Goodreads. This means all I had to go on was the back cover copy, a quick read of the first page, and an excellent visual presentation. I should have read the reviews before beginning the book--it was not a good morning to start off with a story about the holocaust, even if it was well written and short.

As it turns out, the book is a series of short stories tracing the provenance of a mysterious Vermeer. Questions raised in each story are answered further down the line as the history is traced back to when the painting was done. Some of the stories are better than others, but it was ultimately a quick and enjoyable read. ( )
  Krumbs | Mar 31, 2013 |
A fictionalization of the provenance of a Vermeer painting. Interesting, though a timeline would have been helpful. A bit sad as the painting only really changes hands in tough circumstances- someone needs money to survive, and repeat. ( )
  wwrawson | Mar 31, 2013 |
A secretive college professor invites a colleague to his home to view a hidden painting; one that he says is an original oil painting by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. How the present owner came into possession of the painting and whether it was an original or reproduction were questions which bother the visitor. In a series of vignettes, the painting itself moves back in time, revealing to the readers who were the owners of the painting and how the painting affected their lives.

Intriguing in the beginning, the story line wears a bit thin by the end. So much so, that by the time I got to the painter himself and the true life subject of the painting, I was much less interested in the novel. I would have much preferred to go deeper into some of the stories at the beginning of the book, particularly the opening story.
1 vote SqueakyChu | Dec 21, 2012 |
First published on Booking in Heels.

I'm going to start this review by talking about a different book, as you do. So, Girl with a Pearl Earring. Adored it. Even the film had Colin Firth in, so it goes without saying that I loved that too. However, Girl in Hyacinth Blue is very, very similar and just as good. As easy as it would be to mutter about Susan Vreeland's plagiarism, it's simply not true. Both books were released in the same year, 1999, and so should definitely be judged as separate entities. I'm only mentioning it because of the sheer amount of accusatory reviews I've read about this one. So back off! :)

Ironically enough, the first pages of this novel discuss the imitations of paintings, and this does feel like an copy of Girl with a Pearl Earring. I know we've already established that it's not, but I have to mention that it really did feel the same. Both revolve around a painting by Johannes Vermeer, although the one in question in this story is actually fictional. The tones are eerily similar - if someone told me tomorrow that both Tracy Chevalier and Susan Vreeland went to the same writing class, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest. However, the composition is completely different - while the former wrote a straight-forward work of historical fiction, Ms Vreeland almost tells her story backwards.

It starts with an Art teacher being invited to view a painting that hangs in the private collection of a Maths teacher colleague. Upon arrival, he finds a painting that looks exactly like those of Johannes Vermeer and is stunned when the owner tells him that, in fact, it is. However, the novella really begins when he is asked how he came to own this painting, as it's a very complicated and twisty turn of events.

Each chapter is almost like a short story, dealing with a different family and different owners. Starting at the end, with the Maths teacher, the reader learns how the painting changed hands so many times, right up to the end where we learn of its composition and subject. It's a clever idea and it works very well - I found myself making little noises of appreciation as I learnt how the owners in the previous chapter came across the painting.

What I loved about this book the most, was how every single owner felt a different way about the painting. I'm not sure if you can see from the book cover above, but it's basically a girl in a blue dress looking out a window with an unfinished piece of sewing work on her lap. What's clever is how her expression can be, and is, interpreted many different ways. One owner loves the painting because she thinks the subject likes to be quiet and thoughtful, like herself. She relates to it and wishes her family would accept her as she is. Another owner, conversely, decides the girl is waiting for a kiss and bought it because it reminded him of a past love. I guess I never really thought about how one girl in one painting can be desperate, vacant, thoughtful, depressed, or anything else depending on who happens to view it.

The one thing that bothered me is that the whole book is back-to-front, which is fine, but it's not consistent. It continues in this way right until the last two chapters, which feature Vermeer deciding to paint it, and then the events after his death. In that order. It suddenly started going forward again and it didn't make a whole lot of sense. I really liked the whole 'backwards' idea, but why change it at the end?

Anyway. I was hooked on Girl in Hyacinth Blue from the third page, as the two men gaze upon the painting. I've never really understood art or studied it beyond a few brief lessons in school, but this book really brings the passion of those who do to life. I almost felt myself falling in love with this fictional painting myself.

This is a beautiful book with wonderful imagery and a small insight into Dutch history and culture. I honestly think this would make an excellent film itself and I really can't recommended it enough. I'm not usually a short story fan, but there was enough consistency and linkage to keep me hooked. I read this in a day and I'm now looking for anything else written by Susan Vreeland. ( )
  generalkala | Jun 13, 2012 |
Ik hou van deze vorm.
Soms vraag je je bij een oud voorwerp of een oude boom af wat dat/die allemaal heeft 'meegemaakt'. Susan Vreeland heeft een mogelijkheid beschreven. En dan juist met een voorwerp dat mensen echt wat doet; dat ontstaan is door mensen voor mensen.
Is het een fictief schilderij, of is het verhaal geïnspireerd op 'meisje met waterkan'? (gezien voorwerpen die beschreven worden, een schilderij met duidelijk aquamarijn, de goudbruine haren. De kleur van de ogen en tijdstip van maken kloppen dan niet)
Het valt me op dat de verhalen vooral niet gaan over de welgestelden, terwijl het schilderij toch vaak wordt gekocht door hen.

Ik vraag me af hoe het boek zou lezen als je achterin zou beginnen en dus chronologisch voorwaarts gaat. Is dan de spanning er af waar het schilderij vandaan komt, of is de onbekende volgende bestemming even interressant? Herlezen geeft niet hetzelfde effect, vanwege voorkennis. Ik denk dat het ontstaan van het schilderij inderdaad achterin hoort, het (nu)eerste verhaal zou dan een afknapper zijn.

wat Susan Vreeland zelf schrijft:Likewise, paintings, especially those with people, affect me the same way and feed my imagination. Who sat as model for the artist? What was their relationship? Did any urge for physical intimacy pass between them or was their coming together at this moment in time merely a business transaction? Was there a deeper aesthetic collaboration? Was the painter sick with dread over how he would feed his family? What did his children want from him that day? Was his wife happy? Was he? Was he contented with his work? And for landscapes, what moved the artist so deeply that this particular place could serve as his illahee, the Chinook word meaning land that gives comfort?

Poring over the National Gallery catalog of the 1995-1996 Vermeer exhibition, I found tranquillity. His paintings of women in their homes caught in a reflective moment, and bathed in that lovely honey-colored light which also touched with significance the carefully chosen items in the scene, reminded me of Wordsworth's line: "...with an eye made quiet by the power/of harmony and the deep power of joy,/We see into the life of things." In Vermeer I saw my same reverence for artifacts and items made by someone unknown to him. It seemed not far different from being a person upon whom nothing was lost. Vermeer, I believe, was a lover of the connotations and qualities of things in his own domestic life--the luminous variations of pale colors in a hand-dipped window-pane, a woman's silk jacket with fur trim, the rough nap of a red Turkish carpet, the strong lines of a golden pitcher, a hand-drawn wall map. These items seemed to be offered to me for narrative purposes.

Looking at many Dutch paintings--genre scenes, portraits, and landscapes--I felt a growing love for a people and a place I could call mine. By virtue of my Dutch name, all those brave Dutchmen fending off flood on their fragile, sunken land were my kinsmen. But those complaisant matrons admiring their jewels, married to ship captains trading in African souls were my kinswomen too. A girl Vermeer painted crouching on a swept Delft street with her orange skirt ballooning out behind her like a pumpkin could have been me in another age. I felt Dutch. These paintings showed me my heritage alive with vitality and history and the endurance of beauty. The cords of connection tightened.

Vermeer painted only thirty-five or thirty-six canvases. There could have been one more, I reasoned, which survived the ravages of time. I constructed in my mind another painting incorporating elements he frequently used and added objects of my own imagination--a glass of milk left by a sickly child, a sewing basket, a young girl's new black shoes with square gold buckles. I had a painting--and with news reports of so much art stolen from Holocaust victims by members of the Third Reich, I had an idea for a story.

Not having fully realized the painting in that first story, I wrote another, this time from the point of view of the painted girl dressed in a blue smock, in my mind, Vermeer's daughter who longed to paint. That would set the second story in the 1660s. They were to be a pair of stories set into a collection of stories about many artists, historic and fictional. My writing group prompted me further: "Nice stories, Susan, but there's a lot of time in between. Can't you do something with it?" The pair of stories became bookends to Girl in Hycinth Blue, a novel about people who lived their defining moments in the presence of a beautiful painting. It launched me into a new life. I am humbled with gratitude. I hope that by writing art-related fiction, I might bring readers who may not recognize the enriching and uplifting power of art to the realization that it can serve them as it has so richly served me.

With the world so full of a number of paintings, I think I could go on and on until I meet the artists face to face. Oh, I do think it's the pleasantest thing ever a writer can do.
bron:
http://www.svreeland.com/bio.html

-------------------------------------------------​ ( )
  EMS_24 | Apr 19, 2012 |
Intriguing collection of short stories tied together by a work of art by the talented Dutch painter, Vermeer. ( )
  kellymaliawilliams | Apr 10, 2012 |
One of the single most boring books I have ever read. "Girl With A Pearl Earring" this is NOT!!!! ( )
1 vote | FutureMrsJoshGroban | Nov 30, 2011 |
My review from October 18, 2002:

Vermeer's Artistic Genius Still Inspires Us Today!

It amazes me that after hundreds of years, Vermeer's art is so inspirational that 2 wonderful pieces of fiction about his paintings were published the same year (1999) ! After thoroughly enjoying GIRL WITH a PEARL EARRING (Tracy Chevalier), I was intrigued by this book by Ms. Vreeland.

Despite their major similarities, the general plot idea and structure was quite different and unique. While Ms. Chevalier's novel dealt with the life story of Greit, the fictional subject of Girl with a Pearl Earring, GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE begins in modern times with the current owner of the painting. Each chapter is a short story unto itself and yet they are all connected by ownership of the painting as we travel back in time to the time when Vermeer actually painted the masterpiece. Throughout the story, the power that the painting had over the emotions and actions of its owners is explored. Therefore, it is ironic when Vermeer's painting subject doubts her own self-worth and her ultimate importance in the world.

A very helpful companion to both this novel and Ms. Chevalier's novel is VERMEER: THE COMPLETE WORKS (Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr., 1997) because it features all the Vermeer painting discussed in these tales.

This was a very entertaining short novel and I would highly recommend it, especially if you truly appreciate the power of art! ( )
1 vote KindleKapers | Apr 21, 2011 |
A very interesting and unique treatment of the story. I thought the story started a bit slow, but then I was presently surprised after getting past first chapter. The story caught my attention and still left small pieces of the history up to my imagination. ( )
  kresslya | Mar 20, 2011 |
I loved this beautiful story following a vemeer painting through time. ( )
  lberriman | Mar 5, 2011 |
This isn't the story of Vermeer or of any particular character. Rather, it's the story of a painting. Each chapter is a short story about the people in possession of the painting and what they do with it. The book opens in the present, and each chapter then goes back another generation until you reach the end and finally meet Vermeer and his family.

The only thing I wanted was a reproduction of the painting, but there aren't any notes in the book to tell you whether it actually exists or not. The cover has only a slice, not the whole thing. ( )
  theonlinelibrarian | Feb 4, 2011 |
This collection of short stories begins with the reclusive owner of a beautiful painting, which he believes to be a Vermeer. The seven that follow trace the ownership of the painting back through decades. Some touch on the Holocaust, other delve into Dutch history, all the stories are connected by the common thread of the painting and the effect it has on each of its owners.

There are love stories, tales of poor farmers and rich aristocrats, and even one featuring Vermeer himself. I was expecting this to be a boring read (I have no idea why), but I found myself really enjoying each account of the paintings journey through the years. Vreeland gives us a glimpse into eight very different worlds, obviously some of the tales work better than others, but all of them are interesting. She also manages to capture the reader’s attention with the first story and give the collection a sense of resolution with the final one. ( )
  bookworm12 | Nov 19, 2010 |
This novel consists of 8 short stories, some first person and others third person, concerning a Vermeer painting and its owners from present day working back to when the work was created. The painting has a different meaning for each story's protagonist.

The stories range through centuries of Dutch history
You could see the stories as paired. "Love Enough" and "A Night Different From All Other Nights" deal with the Holocaust. "Adagia" and "Hyacinth Blue" are the least connected--both are set in the 19th century and deal with the memories of disappointed love. "Morningshine" and "From the Personal Papers of Adriaan Kuypers" are linked by a foundling. "Still Life" is Vermeer's own story and "Magdalena Looking" features his daughter, the model for the painting. I think the two opening and closing stories are the strongest.

The writing style is natural and flows well, but none of the individual stories feels like a standout to me, that contains a twist or evoked sharp emotion, nor do they feel as if they together made up a whole stronger than their parts. I can't help but compare this novel to a film with a very similar theme, The Red Violin, which was much stronger both in its parts and its whole.

It's not that this is a bad book--but I don't think it's striking or memorable. It was a short, quick pleasant read though that held me to the end. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Aug 27, 2010 |
A fine book. Each chapter a story in itself. Some incredibly sad and I found the Chapter, Hyacinth Blues, hilarious! ( )
  elsyd | Jul 26, 2010 |
Recently while at a second hand book store a random book caught my eye. A blue spine and a name, Girl in Hyacinth Blue. As I read the blurb I felt that it probably wasn’t my kind of book. But something made me want to try it anyway.

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland is the story of a fictional painting by Vermeer. Eight interconnected tales, all linked to the past and the present of this piece of art, are presented in this book.

The eight short tales are Love Enough, A Night Different From All Other Nights, Adagia, Hyacinth Blues, Morningshine, From the Personal Papers of Adriaan Kuypers, Still Life and Magdalena Looking.

The book chronicles the journey of the painting through the ages but the journey is not presented in a chronological way. Its history unfolds in reverse.

The book begins with Love Enough. A math teacher by profession and a loner by choice Cornelius Engelbrecht suddenly reveals to his unsuspecting colleague that he may own a hitherto unknown painting by Vermeer. However, he refuses to disclose where he acquired the painting from, casting a doubt on its authenticity.

A young Jewish girl struggles with the changing times and her own entry in to adulthood during the Second World War in A Night Different From All Other Nights.

In Adagia, a man thinks with tenderness about the lost love of his youth and his long time marriage.

The next story, Hyacinth Blues takes a rather comic look at a rapidly disintegrating marriage of convenience.

The next two stories, Morningshine and From the Personal Papers of Adriaan Kuypers, take place almost simultaneously and are closely linked. A poor farmer’s wife finds an abandoned infant and starts to look for beauty in her own dreary life in Morningshine. From the Personal Papers of Adriaan Kuypers is the story of a young man who falls for a wild, nomadic girl with tragic consequences.

The last two stories, Still Life and Magdalena Looking take us right back to the moment the painting was conceived. Still Life is told from the point of view of the painter while Magdalena Looking tells us about the ‘real’ girl behind the painting.

The writing was very easy to read. It flowed beautifully and the language was elegant. Once I started reading the book I couldn’t stop. I tried to slow down, to enjoy the unfolding of the layered history of the painting. But even with deliberate interruptions I ended up finishing it off in a day and a half.

Among the stories I liked Adagia, Hyacinth Blues, Morningshine, From the Personal Papers of Adriaan Kuypers and Magdalena Looking.

I know a lot of people don’t enjoy short stories. Some may find this book further complicated by the fact that it is told in the reverse. But that is the beauty of the book. That is what made this interesting for me. I wanted to see what happened before this and what led the painting to this house or to the hands of that person.

All the people who came in contact with the painting, living their lives throughout the intervening centuries from the inception of the painting to its present circumstance, were profoundly touched by it. All of them took away something different from it. That is what I really loved about Girl in Hyacinth Blue.

I read this book without any prior expectations and what a pleasant surprise this has been! Highly recommended. ( )
6 vote Porua | Jul 26, 2010 |
This book is a series of short novellas that strung together make up the story. Since it was published at about the same time as "The Girl With the Pearl Earring" it got overshadowed by all that hype. This book was well written and showed great imagination in creating a back story for a famous Vermeer painting. I am not sure that the author's later work has lived up to this earlier promise. I would recommend this book to anybody who liked "Girl With the Pearl Earring." ( )
  benitastrnad | Jul 21, 2010 |
Absorbing book tracing the path of a painting through history, told through stories about various characters in contact with the painting in reverse time order. Loved the way it was put together. ( )
  butrfli425 | Jun 10, 2010 |
This was a good book, although I wasn't engaged enough in the book to read it all the way through for a long time. It sat on my night stand with other books I was reading, often passed over for something else. I finally finished it last week. The progression in time backwards over the centuries of the various owners of the painting to the point of it being painted was a good plot concept. ( )
  ImpudentAngel | May 31, 2010 |
You feel like you are cast back in time, living in the character's situation. Wonderful writing and atmosphere. ( )
  Sandrajp | Apr 3, 2010 |
Good book! I enjoyed the way the story started with the current owner of the painting, then traced it's ownership back through time. The characters at each point in time had little in common with those before and after, but all were tied together by the painting. Interesting, circular story. ( )
  chmessing | Feb 2, 2010 |
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