Posted in communication and networking, education, electronic imaging and displays, Illumination, Optics

Scandal in the optics’ world

There is an ongoing debate in the art history/optics world as to whether or not Renaissance artists’ used optical devices to “trace” objects onto their paintings. Yesterday Charles Falco of the University of Arizona gave a talk at Dartmouth that is sure to restir the pot, so to speak. Falco collaborates with British artist David Hockney, the most vocal advocate for this theory.

“According to Hockney and Falco’s thesis, artists used optical devices to project magnified images of objects onto a canvas. The painter would then trace enough of the image on the canvas to outline elements of the object’s optical perspective. The rest of the painting would then be finished with the addition of imagined or “eyeballed” elements, such as details or additional objects, Falco said. A painter might use optical devices several times for a single painting to focus on various parts of the scene, Falco said.

“This technique allowed artists to capture important details of objects that could not have been captured by eyesight alone, Falco said. It also contributed to the increased attention to perspective and proportion that characterized 15th-century paintings, he said.”

Full article here.

There are plenty of people who disagree with Hockney and Falco. David Stork of Stanford is one of them, as is his coworker Ashutosh Kulkarni. I haven’t done enough research on the subject to draw a conclusion. Thoughts?



Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.