This follows the theory that greater realism may have been achieved in the past with the aid of optical devices such as the camera obscura. While I don't doubt the possibility of Renaissance and post-Renaissance artists using drawing aids for initial sketching, I think the author is going to great pains to prove just a minor detail, for if any optical devices were used, it surely was just one of the many techniques painters relied on. For example, I find it interesting that the author doesn't mention: the classic education that was prevalent then that had a great focus in geometry and Greco-Roman art/history, nor, something as "of the period" as grisaille technique which allowed the painter to achieve greater realism, or 'photorealism' as the author puts it.
"The real work was thinking, just thinking." - Charles Chaplin
He starts by stating that the human eye won't be able to reproduce shade of the wall paint as a photograph would do it due, due to a compensating effect of human Vision.
He further states that projecting an image of the real scene onto canvas would mix-up the luminances of the reflected projection image and the reflection of the fresh painting. As the former is the lighting of the latter.
Using superimposed images as by means of a mirror however would add-up luminances.
Seeing the real Scene with one eye and the fresh painting with other might be an outcome.
But then that compensating effect of human vision would still exist in his design.
I recently was watching similar documentary (can't find the link) where proof for using lenses by old masters was shallow DOF in some parts of the paintings and optical distortion - that you would not normally have in paintings.
Are people surprised at this at all? People knew how to project images for a LONG time before they figured out chemical procesess to fix the image. The use of any and all optical aids to painting should be assumed.
Interesting article, but I'm not sure it says much, once you read past the surface-layer rantiness. It's obviously written in an intentionally polemical way, but the actual content I got from it boiled down to "he may be right, but his copy is Bad Art, and anyway focusing on mechanics over artistic talent misses the point".
Which might all be true---I don't know about the Bad Art bit, but the other two theses seem reasonable---but seems itself to miss the point of the original experiment. Probably nobody disputes that Vermeer was talented as all hell, but I don't know: did anyone, other than the author of the _Grauniad_ column, read the original article as carrying the message "Vermeer was nothing special, he just had a magic tool"?
It reminds me a little bit of the "photography isn't art" / "yes it is" / "no it isn't" Argument Clinic of the early 20th century. If an artist used a sophisticated tool, something that could allow a complete tyro to duplicate some of the challenging mechanics of their work, would that devalue the work as capital-A-Art? I thought we'd gotten past that question long since, but maybe the tree of controversy needs to be watered from time to time with the blood of repetition, or something like that.
San Diego, CA, USA
The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
-The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_