ARTYFACTS: Hockney - National Portrait Gallery

Friday, January 12, 2007

Hockney - National Portrait Gallery

This was a schizophrenic experience. Hockney's explicit homosexuality, urbanity and LA sunshine still startles a conservative Britain and picture in these areas remain his best work. I also like the intimate images of his mother and father. My Parents is touching. Mr and mrs Clark with Percy is just fine.

However, the photography and later portraits fail to deliver. The curator drawings are of real interest as part of his quest for exposing the use of optical devices in art, but in themselves of no artistic interest. I have to say that this book fascinated me and I went back to the National Gallery to checlk out his theories about Holbein, Campin, van Eyck, Carravagio, Velasquez, honthorst, Rambrandt, Ingres, and Vermeer. His arguments are very convincing.

From early 15th century many Western artists used optics. Is this cheating - not so says Hockney. The artist still makes the mark and drawing is still as difficult.

Visual clues include:
  1. precise and accurate drawing, not eyeballed and groped for
  2. differences in scale as optical device is moved and magnification changes
  3. patterns on folded material follow folds precisely
  4. photographic lighting with strong shadows
  5. optical devices (lenses) start to appear in paintings
  6. changes in focus
  7. foreground objects and effects very large
  8. lens artefacts - halo effects
  9. effects not seen with naked eye
  10. patterns go out of focus at back
  11. differences in perspective as optical device is moved and magnification changes
  12. collage construction - few overlaps - separate images on one canvas
  13. thirty centimetre rule for mirror projection - the sweet spot
  14. popularity of still lifes
  15. left-hand3ed drinkers etc.
  16. closeness of figures to picture plane
  17. white table cloths to allow refocussing
  18. undermarks to establish shapes
  19. captured expressions (Hals)
  20. distortion
  21. connections between artists and scientists (especially Vermeer)
Some examples are:

The Abassadors - Holbein. We have the distorted skulls and amazing detail on cabinet.

Merchant in Berlin - Holbein
I was to see this Holbein image in berln some months later. It is astonishing to see the obvious error in real life. the bottom right hand corner literally fal;ls away in an attempt to get the pot of money seen ( at a different perspective).

Arnolfini Wedding
Convex mirror and chandelier seen front on and not from below as expected.

Carravagio's Bacchus
close to picture frame, left handed

Frans hals - feather in cap
impossib;e capture of expression

Velasquez -Don Gusten
result of moving limited range device

Frans Hals - long man
result of moving limited range device

Genovese lady - van Dyke
result of moving limited range device


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