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Tracy Chevalier. History of one painting
Tracy Chevalier. History of one painting

Works of art are created in order to enchant, amaze, delay in thought. The canvases of great artists carried secrets and mystical mysteries through the centuries. One of them is Jan Vermeer's painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring". Shrouded in an aura of mystery, it became a source of inspiration for the American writer T. Chevalier, who told her readers the wonderful story of this portrait, which could have happened, and possibly happened in the distant 17th century.

Who is Tracy Chevalier?

Writer T. Chevalier was born in October 1962 in Washington. She moved to England after graduating from Oberlin College. She worked as an editor for several years, writing stories in her spare time. In 1993 she completed her master's degree at the University of East Anglia. Then she stopped working in the office - she became a freelance editor and began writing her first novel, The Virgin in Blue.(1997). Lives with her husband and children in London.

tracey chevalier girl
tracey chevalier girl

What is he writing?

Tracy has her own office at home, but she usually writes on the couch in the living room. She writes novels by hand, and at the end of the day she types what she wrote on the computer. Tracy is left-handed and prefers blue ink and disposable pens. She has written 9 novels and 2 collections of short stories. Books by Tracey Chevalier:

  • “Fallen Angels” (2001);
  • “The Lady and the Unicorn” (2003);
  • “Tiger Burning Light” (2007);
  • “Pretty Creatures” (2009);
  • “Last Escape” (2012);
  • At the Edge of the Orchard (2016).

Tracey Chevalier's second novel, Girl with a Pearl Earring, published in 1999, sold 5 million copies and brought the writer a real success. We will dwell on it in more detail.

How was the novel born?

Vermeer and his painting has puzzled the world for centuries. As the biography of the artist himself remains a mystery, so we will never know about the girl with pearls, who served as a model for a famous artist. Vermeer is recognized as a master of light, he specialized in portraits of women and interiors. Part of the value of Vermeer's paintings is that they are filled with mystery.

tracy chevalier girl with a pearl earring
tracy chevalier girl with a pearl earring

Unlike his Dutch contemporaries, who overflowed their compositions with details, Vermeer liked to tease the viewer and hide the meaning. For example, on one of his canvases, an elegant couple makes music - but we will never know if the gentleman is the mentor,fiance or husband.

So the painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” beckons with its mystery. Who is she? Dressed in exotic clothes - a turban, he gives the canvas an oriental flavor and takes the imagination to distant lands. Perhaps this is a figure from the Bible? Or did Vermeer's wife look like this? The pearl shown in the painting is too large to be worn in reality. This halo of mystery draws people to the picture.

How is it written?

“The picture works because it is unsolved,” says Tracey Chevalier. - And you will never be able to understand what a girl thinks about, how she feels. You move on to the next picture, but invariably return to The Girl, trying to unravel this mystery. And Tracy tried to figure it out. Not as erotic and insidious as Weber's Music Lesson, not as original as S. Vreeland's stories, but Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring succeeded.

tracy chevalier
tracy chevalier

The writer paints an amazing picture of the city of Delft in the 17th century, it is clearly defined, social classes are clearly defined, the poverty of working people and prejudice against Catholics among the Protestant majority are shown.

From the very beginning, the 16-year-old storyteller Grieta shows herself as an observer who sees the world in sensual images, expressed in precise and light prose. There are subtle nuances of displaying the coldly distant face of Vermeer, his morally unstable wife Katharina, a benevolent mother-in-law.

With equal skill, Tracey Chevalier also describes the components of painting: how colors are mixed with pharmacymaterials. And the way composition is achieved: by painstaking work and care. The author subtly notices the inequality of classes by the example when Vermeer, impressed by how Grieta understands color and composition, secretly makes her his assistant, and then demands that she put on Katarina's pearl earrings.

tracy chevalier books
tracy chevalier books

The episodes where Grieta advises Vermeer on how to improve the picture require the reader's imagination - this is something unthinkable. And in the denouement, the artist's confession of guilt before her is a blatant nod in the direction of sentimentality. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating story with historical background, and Chevalier has skillfully and realistically told it to the reader.

What is it talking about?

The time of the novel is 1664. The main character of Tracy Chevalier's book is the girl Grieta, the modest daughter of a tile manufacturer, who is forced to work as a maid in Vermeer's house because her father is blind. A young girl is drawn to the artist's work, but faces more mundane everyday challenges.

The house is full of women, and each of them can command Grieta, give her orders. Grieta has to not only work tirelessly, but also be able to adapt to others and understand from a half-word. But everything that Grieta built for a long time, patiently and carefully, will collapse in an instant, when an attraction appears between her and the master, a subtle, barely noticeable attraction of people who can see and feel the beautiful.

Grieta is undoubtedly in love with the master first love, which tends to idealize the object of sighing. Vermeer, as a man of genius, is fixated exclusively on creativity, not wanting to be distracted by any everyday problems, let alone solve them. And Grieta has to rush between the women of the Vermeer house, the cares of the parental hearth and the young butcher Peter, who is seriously carried away by the girl.

tracey chevalier brand new
tracey chevalier brand new

All this makes the beauty grow up quickly - flatter where necessary, learn to hide the truth, assess the situation and make independent decisions. The end of the story is predictable, but it is very interesting to follow the path that will lead the girl to this end point. Several years of service in the house of the Vermeers changed her, helped her start a family and start a new, completely different life. The picture painted by the artist is, as it were, the result of the passed stage for Grieta.

Worth reading?

The book “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Tracey Chevalier is a new version of the creation of the painting, completely different from previous attempts to describe the life of the artist and his creations. The novel mentions many of the master's works. The main character is decent, conscientious, causes only sympathy.

The book is written easily: all emotions and feelings are conveyed subtly and accurately. The story flows slowly, but is not at all boring. A slight understatement about the girl Grieta tells more about her than the monologues of the heroine. The author succeeded, as an artist, stroke by stroke to create the main character, gradually revealing to the reader her image, all the obvious and secret traits of character. Tracey Chevalier, like her hero, mixed paints, came up with a background, step by step creatinga story to spend an enjoyable evening reading.

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