Tim Jenison decided to use his expertise as an inventor to attempt to recreate Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s “The Music Lesson” using technology that would have been available in the 17th century. When Penn Jillette learned of his friend’s passion project, he knew it had to be a film – and soon got his business partner Teller to come on as the director for what would become Tim’s Vermeer.

“You see a Vermeer on the wall next to a bunch of paintings and it jumps out. They have a very different look to them. Even among the Dutch masters, who all painted extremely well, there’s something about a Vermeer,” Jenison explained to Uinterview exclusively. “It’s like when a little kid brings in a picture he made of a superhero and you go, ‘Oh, did you lay this over the top of a comic book and trace it?’ ‘Yes, I did. How did you know?’ It just has this look that it can’t be right. It’s just too good; it’s superhuman.”

Inspired by David Hockney’s book Secret Knowledge, which theorizes that Vermeer used optics to create his masterpieces, Jenison set about painting a Vermeer with zero painting experience. In the end, Jenison pulls off his experiment – but stops short of making a 100% positive claim that he has found Vermeer’s secret.

“Tim doesn’t make any extravagant claims. Tim just says this is a way Vermeer could have done this,” Teller told Uinterview. “He’s not saying this definitely, because there’s no way to prove that until somebody comes across… You know, Mrs. Vermeer sends a letter to Mr. Vermeer saying, ‘Johannes, Junior broke your mirror yesterday. You know that mirror you put at a 45-degree angle and you paint by? We’ll get you a new one.’… There’s no proof proof.”

Five years since hearing Jenison’s plan to paint a Vermeer, Jillette couldn’t be prouder of the end result of their collaboration. “I was so proud of making a movie that is happy. It’s inspirational,” said Jillette. “There’s something wonderful about doing something beautiful. And there’s something about Tim, for all of his genius -€ and Tim is certainly an IQ out of this world – and for all his gumption, there’s a quality that Tim’s kind of a regular guy. There’s something wonderful about, in five years, you really stick to something, you work hard and think hard, you can make a f–king Vermeer.”

Tim’s Vermeer is currently in wide release.

– Chelsea Regan

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