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Jan Vermeer and the Camera Obscura

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It has often been said that Jan Vermeer used a camera obscura to capture perspective in his paintings. Here is a short clip investigating whether this was true or not. Music: Marc Koch - Open MInd
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Text Comments (20)
Yseson _ (2 months ago)
I'm sure Carrivaggio used camera obscura in fact this was Chairoscuro. But even he Carrivaggio changed things, his painting of the Commanding General of Matla while gorgeous is a little off because his page is standing in front and behind him, this is due to the fact that he painted them separately, however it is clearly a work of camera obscura. Like some primeval Photoshop things could be changed but this was the technique.
Rex Kenny (6 months ago)
I was just curious and looked through the images, what I was a bit struck by was how perfect the distances was and how little change it was in the angles of the images, now many assume that you need a lens and some device that you can move, but what you need is a dark room and a hole that you can move, or several holes that you can open or close, the dark room can be very large and the image can look brighter if you spend a day inside this box before you open the hole. Another thing is that he do not become a bad artist just for use a camera obscura, that is just a faster way to arrange and sketch a image, a large part of great art is the arrangement and the content, how it was sketched is not very important, the hard part that need skill come after, and that is to make everything to look good, to ve able to mix the colors, make skin tones, fill in the details and so on. I think it is a bit shalefull that folk look down on artist that may been using camera obscura, I see than as great artists too and you still need much skill to make great art.
kcaj mortsnnew (1 year ago)
So many academics with theories ...any talented kid can learn the "rules" of perspective , and to believe artists in the past couldn't simply DRAW WELL from an early age...nonsense...I had the ability before I was 20 to do the easy stuff (buildings , vanishing points , etc)..the human figure's another matter , but if you think the perspective implies a camera , take a CLOSE look at the floor at 1:45 ,no way that"s the result of a lens ; I'd guess he drew it out and painted it hurriedly , without checking , and figured "what the hell" if/when he noticed how clumsy it was.......I wouldn't argue either way if he used a camera obscura , but that has NOTHING TO DO with what he's about....people these days believe paintings done from photos are "realistic"...and good...I scorn the copying of photos AS ART;but of course , "art" is dead , and the stinking corpse has been rotting near 200 years.....but still , i paint , therefor i am....Please quit trying to analyze art....dissecting a Beethoven symphony DOES NOT increase understanding or enjoyment...unless you're one who cannot HEAR the music
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GrooveFella (1 year ago)
Dude DO SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR LUNGS !!!
Andy D. Wilson (2 years ago)
The essential theme of the program is learning the nomenclature and functionality of a digital camera with plenty of tips on how to take a better picture. It is an easy-to-follow from basic to special effects in step-by-step detail that is informative, instructive and inspirational. It was perfect it gives visuals and explains explanations of settings and shooting styles of both cannon and Nikon cameras. She was excited and within a day was taking great pictures. https://plus.google.com/b/114613924873974887764/114613924873974887764/posts/3pJyxGTfRCf
Darren V. Rich (2 years ago)
I think it works.
Frankie Max (2 years ago)
speak louder!
Jax Nean (2 years ago)
David Hockney thinks otherwise, I'm a bit confused! Other artists too, Willem Kalf for example, have that photographic subtleties, that photographic look! It makes me wonder whether he also used a camera obscura !
AJM19812018 (3 years ago)
Vermeer decorated his studio to set up a scene. The original wooden floor could have been layered with another temporary one, maybe not even meant to walk on. But mainly I don't get this as a point against the Camera Obscura. Also there is no point in assuming he didn't use optics in his camera obscura when there were camera obscuras with lenses and when optics were quite common in microscopes and telescopes. Anthony van Leeuwenhoek was born in the same year as Vermeer and used optics to study bacteria.
mrsid6581 (9 months ago)
Oh, and Anthonie van Leeuwenhoek was the guy who took care of Vermeers posessions after his death, coincidence?
Shane McFee (4 years ago)
how do you know that there were no chess board floors in hollland at the time? And anyway. An artist of vermeer's standing could do them floors at a pinch!
Michael Gray (6 years ago)
Apologies: Kircher's Arts Magia Luce et Umbrae (1665) not (1885)!
Michael Gray (6 years ago)
It is never entirely possible to eliminate all optical aberrations and 'faults' which characterise the primitive single element lens. Vermeer through his association with Kepler and Huygens would have known of Kircher's Arts Magia Luce et Umbrae (1885) through information from either of the aforementioned. What separates Vermeer from his contemporaries is that if you look at the surviving examples of his work they are essentially explorative in intent, seemingly without any religious baggage.
Michael Gray (6 years ago)
You should read Steadman's extensive and exhaustive publication which answers many of your observations and misgivings. It is a masterly study. The camera obscura is merely another tool. There are aspects of Vermeer's work which are evidence of its use (ie., foreshortening, edge distortion). Most probably he would have edited, modified and ameliorated, but, not entirely eliminated the raw image. Vermeer had contact with Keppler, Huygens and several other important pioneer physicists.
Pedro Menchén (7 years ago)
I think Vermeer don't used a camera obscura. He knews perspective rules for drawing.

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