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David Hockney, The Lost Secrets of the Old Masters: camera lucida obscura

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http://AncientMagicArtTools.com A Very interesting interview with David Hockney, where he explains and demonstrates the use of camera obscuras and camera lucidas in the artwork of the Old Masters chronicled in his book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters.
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Text Comments (49)
gman (3 months ago)
Hockney is 100 per cent correct. Artists did use lens and mirrors. Still do.
Terry Berry (10 months ago)
Try and drag all the real painters down to your student level hock the hack
Terry Berry (10 months ago)
The only secret is that hockney was ignorant of the history of camera obscura. Academics werent but of course hes not an academic just an overrated hack.
scottiemcnichols (1 year ago)
I don't believe Michelangelo constructed a camera obscura in the Sistine Chapel when he painted the ceiling. lol It's obvious that Vermeer used one but to theorize that as many did as Hockney does, is a bit of a reach in my opinion.
Raj Singh Arora (1 year ago)
he is so right so before time.....if you see the documentary Tims Vermeer.
This interviewer is a moron and hasn't even prepared his questions properly!
Nebojša Čelebić (1 year ago)
Mr. Hockney
Shannon Crowley (1 year ago)
I kind of believe this guy if all the scientific points are fact... But it doesn't mean the masters aren't masters...They still lay that paint down. Also I wonder how they are able to paint those upside down projections? lol
Jose A. Lopez Picardo (1 year ago)
thank you so much for this video
TheJasonmoretti (2 years ago)
wow I can not believe how acidic some comments are.. If you watched the whole doc he says the artits technique is there his hand is the camera is in it,,.. and also that he prefers the realness of 2 eyes in a drawing or painting..He notes that people started to rebel against the photo look by not using optic techniques ...makes sense if you dont have an ego about HOW it was achieved.. He isnt shitting on anyone but simply making an obserrvation..which may or may not be correct..personally i think it a waste of time for ME to labor over measurements I KNOW i can make when I could just trace them and flourish the painting in my own style w 2 eyes..NOW in the present state of technology its a tool IF you want to create realistic proportions...Or for the sake of genuine perspective..Photoshop does thast shit for u.. In my opinion its all art if passion is applied to it..and the negative thinkers are just cunts. and not worth a fart
Joel Pace (2 years ago)
As a drawing instructor with over 30 years experience, I'd like to make a few observations, minus the rancor of some of the other comments.1. If, as the Wikipedia article states, Hockney's claim is that the " level of accuracy represented in their work is impossible to create by 'eyeballing it' ",  I couldn't disagree more. Plenty of the students at the school where I taught could produce "master quality" drawing using simple measuring techniques.2. Much of this theory is not new. My 1969 Time-Life Vermeer book includes a whole section on his use of the Camera Obscura. It shows how the out-of-focus nature of the highlights in many of Vermeer's paintings are evidence of this. 3. I believe there may be some truth to the claim that Caravaggio used it, due to the "snapshot" quality of his compositions. It has always struck me that the cropping of figures in Caravaggio's paintings seemed to be a new development compared to contemporary and earlier works.4. It is clear that Hockney loves these master works. Sadly, it is also clear from a survey of his drawings, that Hockney's own drawing ability is severely stunted. The drawings I have seen would have been lucky to have earned a D grade in my Freshman drawing classes. I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that his theory would be a boost to Hockney's own self-esteem.5. People have cited Ingres' drawings as evidence to his use of the device, because of the economy of line. The sketch for his painting of the Comtesse d'Haussonville clearly shows a gestural approach that belies tracing a projected image.6. As a student in my Art History class recently asked, "what about sculpture"? It seems silly to me to think that artists need a tracing machine to draw "realistically", but that sculptors could make a convincing, lifelike image with a chisel.7. I have used photo references in my own work as a matter of convenience, eg. painting a bird in flight. But I always prefer drawing from life when possible. You can see and understand so much more than when using a photo. And the convenience of the sitter argument doesn't hold up. A trained artist can produce a detailed portrait drawing in less than an hour.8. Setting up or lugging around this device would be inconvenient when it would be so much easier just to grab a piece of charcoal and draw the subject.Just a few thoughts
Harold William (1 year ago)
The issue of sculpture is one I find very interesting. I started learning to draw a few years ago, and within a couple of months of starting, went to Paris, and spent a day at St. Denis Basilica. The quality of the medieval sculpture was much more "real" than the paintings of the same period, in the same building. When I got back home I noticed the same, and I started noticing that in every era, and every culture that high quality sculpture exists, in a way that painting does not. Bizarrely the evidence seems to suggest that sculpting is easier than painting. Having tried a bit of sculpting (only with modeling clay), the issue seems clearer to me. The form of 3D shapes does not need any abstracting, I can inspect it in a natural way;. when I want to create realistic drawings I need to have a clear notion of a picture plane, measure in the plane, with one eye closed, sometimes squinting. Painting requires me to create a projection of the form, sculpture simply requires me to replicate the form, painting is harder (for me at least, and my observations suggest I am not alone). Curiously measuring with the hand in sculpture works quite well - my hand makes a shape over something, and I can check that the clay feels the same shape.  So the question is not so much can a trained artist paint without optical assistance, but what does the artist need to see in order to make these quality drawings or paintings, and can an awareness of these things develop spontaneously in a culture without reference to optical images? History suggest the answer to this last question is "no". At least one point in this discussion has been missed by some: prior to chemical photography, the only enduring visual images had to be created by hand some how. In a world without photographs many would be happy to use mechanical means to create pictures. On the issue of Hockney's own abilities I really think a lot of people have misunderstood Hockney's art, and underestimated his skill.
James Cowman (2 years ago)
https://www.artrenewal.org/articles/2003/Hockney_Refuted/hockney1.php
James Cowman (2 years ago)
David Hockney is a hack and draws on the level of an 8 year old. His evidence is false and the Art Renewal Center hammered his theories into the ground. Give it up David, just because you can't draw or paint doesn't mean others can't.
Matthew Dickson (2 months ago)
If Hockney spent his time actually studying art instead of this bull shit he might be able to produce something worth looking at himself.
Thomas Churchwell (8 months ago)
Vermeer did not use a camera obscura and a truse artist know it. According to sHockney he used one but kept it secret. Really? So he secretly carried it outside to do his famous cityscape? If he used this tool them why did he need to use perspective guides which can be seen on the paintings buy the pin holes in the canvas. sHockney won't mention these and other facts because he makes money belittling anything that isn't his art which has never been that good
nicole Dagenais (8 months ago)
i can see his spirit, sense of the world and his joy of life, art is 100% not about making something look exactly like something else (boring as fuk) its about someones view of the world and he succeeds in that. its so 1950 to think art is measured by how well someone can REPRODUCE something in real life. a hack? lols.
minarima (1 year ago)
I can draw very well and yet I find myself agreeing 100% with David Hockney. The notion that the use of the tool called 'camera obscure' by artists such as Vermeer would somehow diminish their work is nonsense. Is a paintbrush not also a 'tool'? An easel? A pencil? If you're so against the use of tools maybe you should go crawl back into the caves and push sediment across the walls with your hands like they did in the Paleolithic.
James Cowman (2 years ago)
+nina yao What I find interesting is that modern artist have already proven his theories wrong time and time again. Response's like Nina's fall onto def ears for artist that are actually trained. I'm so tired of moronic response's like Nina's who defend art and no nothing about it. Hockney is on the level of Jackson Pollock. It's insulting to anyone that has any training at all.
Steve Paterson (3 years ago)
Hockney is very likeable. Some of his paintings are fantastic.
Patrik Floding (3 years ago)
David Hockney's own artistry is totally irrelevant to to the scientific reasoning here and in his excellent BBC programme The Lost Secretes of the Old Masters. So there is no need to comment on his merits in that department. It's just blatantly obvious that he is 100% correct, even when it comes to details such as the transition from concave mirrors, to glass lenses, to combining a glass sense with a flat mirror to correct for mirror imaging. The fact that optical imaging today is a commodity that would be seen as taking away from artistry has no bearing on how the technology would have been used in the pre-photographic era. The secrecy surrounding it, at the time, would have been a matter of guarding a treasure trove (exactly like guarding any corporate secrets today), not due to embarrassment due to using optics. It would just have been another tool used in their profession.
JF F (3 months ago)
@Patrik Floding, You're as incompetent as Hackney... We're done here....
Darren Nash (3 years ago)
Cant believe how angry some of you are. Given the tools available today for touch ups, photos being enhanced, projectors etc.. Nothing is that real at any stage... Let alone the sketch stage... And sketch is the easy bit... Its harder to put the paints on the canvas realistically.
Peta Graham (3 years ago)
Oh at last. The voice of calm and sanity. I can't believe how angry some of these people are either. 
inlight2024 (3 years ago)
to pick up a brush and cover that brush with color oil, and brush a canvas is frightning and joy,  how can that be any more like life.
snappycatchy (4 years ago)
I'll give him this, I never noticed how many 'left-handed' people feature in old master paintings before.
Strawberry Kiys (1 year ago)
you'll actually notice it in galleries...and the fact the size of the heads are all the same in every painting..the fact that some parts of the painting like carpets are out of focus in the back...etc
Wenceslao Futanaki (4 years ago)
The hemorroids of my hairy arse have more talent than this hack.
lallope (4 years ago)
craftsmen were secretive. and still are.
lallope (4 years ago)
excellent point made by mr. hockney, everyone wants to believe there was magic. illustrators have used these methods all along.
padgett parker (4 years ago)
Mr . Hockney is so far from being a master draftsman that it is beyond him to imagine that others were and are . His claims are indemonstrable and vapid . 
immortelsprod (4 years ago)
Hockney is so full of s***, and he is surely a terrible crafstman ; he didn't start a debate, he just prooved that he is a mediocre artist himself. It's not a secret that figurative artists of all time have had interest in optics. All tools and techniques are good. Hockneys just considers 1% of all optical and mechanical means available for artists to use (flat mirors, plumb lines, grids, pieces of glass ... are other well known exemples). But he is so obsessed with his "discovery" that he has to argue that it was widely used. That's where he is wrong. He prooved himself that the camera technique doesn't make beautiful drawings with his own portrait at 13:40. The lack of artistic talent is also obvious in these other drawings from him using this technique : http://www.artrenewal.org/articles/2004/Hockney/large/HockneyComparison2.jpg Compare it with portraits from Ingres : http://www.artrenewal.org/articles/2004/Hockney/large/HockneyComparison1.jpg My point is : artist are always interested in mechanical ways to control their pictures, and it would be a great surprise if none had ever used a camera (obscura or lucida), but it is stupid to say that almost all of them did in most of their works. It is even more stupid to argue that because a painting is beautiful and realistic it has to be made with such a technique. Mr. Hockney should just consider some his fellow figurative artists that can actually draw before he make such a strong point about his "secret discovery". And he should learn to draw before he says something can't be drawn accurately by eye. http://www.artrenewal.org/articles/2004/Hockney/yoder1.php
lallope (4 years ago)
guess you found it disturbing but have you ever looked at a norman rockwell? he used photos and so what. he even painted directly onto photos, believe me it is not that easy. only an artist can make it truly believable.
Rob Coghan (4 years ago)
with the advent of Tim 's Vermeer who has absolutely proved the use of mirrors and lens to create Vermeers master works
Sergio Lobato (4 years ago)
Hockney is an amazing colorist and great set designer, however a mediocre illustrator and a less than competent painter. His camera obscure obsession has been disproven time and time again by real art scholars globally. Yes I've seen his SF show and it reaffirmed my opinion of his work.
nicole Dagenais (8 months ago)
i can see his spirit, sense of the world and his joy of life, art is 100% not about making something look exactly like something else (boring as fuk) its about someones view of the world and he succeeds in that. its its so 1950 to think art is measured by how well someone can REPRODUCE something in real life.
sclogse1 (4 years ago)
In terms of the blurred or out of focus areas that were painted as such, you have to wonder...well, at some point the painting is worked on outside the camera obscura. Then if something was out of focus in the sketch on the canvas, of even some painted areas, it would be very simple to touch it up, especially with the skillsets of the artist and assistants of that time. 
sclogse1 (4 years ago)
For all you people dissing Hockney as some terrible artist, his drawing skills are astonishing. Plus, his output is also the same. I recommend you see his traveling show, which as of jan 2014 is in San Francisco. It's unreal, and none of it is L.A. imagery. Ok. When I look at Jan Van Eyck's astonishing work, and Hockney's examples, I have no doubt that the camera obscura was used to facilitate the work. What I want the discussion to delve into, is when did the technique stop being used in a painting, for instance,when one is working on highlights or silk or armor, after the sketching is finished, show how they were able to get correct colors and chroma while working in the obscura, or when they would periodically light a candle in the box to see how their work was coming along. It wasn't just for sketching the figures, the obscura showed everything on the canvas. Then what happens when you start painting over the image, especially in those conditions? But please...look at Hockneys portraits and landscape drawing. He's extremely skilled.
sclogse1 (2 years ago)
Tomorrow, when the sun comes up, try going outside for a change.
TheJasonmoretti (2 years ago)
it became their mark..their secret
fubarizationnation (5 years ago)
This guy is a moron.
Libard 9 (5 years ago)
19:00 Caravaggio was his neighboor??? Lol
Aaron Carlisle (5 years ago)
I don't believe it does. Comic book artists know how to draw. They've mastered the art of illustration, and they've learned anatomy and gesture, but they still use tons of references and digital tools to help speed up their work process. I believe it's important to learn the rules first, then you can break them, twist them, or do whatever you need to get the desired result.
Adam Palmer (5 years ago)
Why should the technical aspects of how art is created diminish the actual art itself? So what if some of these masters used these techniques, does it make their art any less beautiful or worthwhile?
Wenceslao Futanki (5 years ago)
this clown is the worst person on the planet to talk about this complex subject, we need someone who knows the craft of drawing asa minimum requirement to make a serious investigation. Was the camera used for drawing only, just for general composition or also for painting or not at all ?
rdevin31 (5 years ago)
you people are morons.. go to school and learn to draw and if then you still can't draw dont be an artist :0
rdevin31 (5 years ago)
he should be best known for being the worst artist in the modern age, he expects us to believe that just because he can't draw an accurate portrait that all the greatest artists in history can't.. they might have been used by some less talented artists for things like perspective, however I can draw very well and this guy pisses me off because I and many people I have studied with can draw completely accurate portraits and we rely on "eye balling it" as this moron says

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