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kenstauffer

Vermeer's Camera

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Since reading the following book, I have wondered what Objectivists with an art history backround think of Philip Steadman's theory? I enjoyed the book, and thought his arguments were well reasoned, but in the back of my mind was the nagging feeling he was avoiding discussing alternative explainations for the evidence.

This is the link to his home page:

http://www.vermeerscamera.co.uk/home.htm

Here's a couple quotes from his site:

"Over 100 years of speculation and controversy surround claims that the great seventeenth-century Dutch artist, Johannes Vermeer, used the camera obscura to create some of the most famous images in Western art."
"This intellectual detective story starts by exploring Vermeer's possible knowledge of seventeenth-century optical science, and outlines the history of this early version of the photographic camera, which projected an accurate image for artists to trace."

"...  it is Steadman's meticulous reconstruction of the artist's studio, complete with a camera obscura, which provides exciting new evidence to support the view that Vermeer did indeed use the camera."

"These findings do not challenge Vermeer's genius but show how, like many artists, he experimented with new technology to develop his style and choice of subject matter."

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Since reading the following book, I have wondered what Objectivists with an art history backround think of Philip Steadman's theory? I enjoyed the book, and thought his arguments were well reasoned, but in the back of my mind was the nagging feeling he was avoiding discussing alternative explainations for the evidence.

David Hockney is more well known for advancing this sort of view. For an alternative, you might be interested in reading this. There is some good information there for you to consider, though, personally, I think the author goes too far in some of his claims and broad generalizations.

I have not investigated the issue very much at all, but the little investigation that I previously did revealed some evidence that needs to be taken seriously and addressed by the opposition. There is a very respectable physicist, Charles M. Falco, who offers evidence in support of Hockney's (and, presumably, Steadman's) claims. Though these people may in fact be wrong, I do not think they deserve to be dismissed out of hand, which is, apparently, the way that many traditionalists approach this issue. If their claims are false, they need to be refuted by reference to facts, both historical and scientific.

You might want to pose a succinct question to our art history expert, Lee Sandstead, in the "Ask the Experts" forum.

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Here is a tangential question: What if Vermeer did in fact use a camera obscura in creating his paintings? Would that lessen the artistic merit of his paintings? Would it lessen the impact his paintings have on the viewer?

My answer is no.

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Here is a tangential question: What if Vermeer did in fact use a camera obscura in creating his paintings? Would that lessen the artistic merit of his paintings? Would it lessen the impact his paintings have on the viewer?

My answer is no.

I agree with your NO answer, because we can ignore the camera obscura technique for a moment and consider that most realism in painting still requires a lot of other tools to achieve their look. Such as perspective points, vanishing lines, rulers, compasses, etc.. all aid the artist with his goal. In my opinion the camera obscura is just another tool for the artist to use.

The camera obscura is like sitting inside of a camera and tracing out the image, but the artist still must chose the subject matter. Plus the the projected image is very crude and subject to all kinds of distortions (see below) so the artist I suppose is using the camera obscura as a glorified ruler/compass.

But what about Ayn Rand's claim that photography is not art? How to reconcile this?

By the way, I checked out Stephen's links for Falco and Hockney. They make stronger claims about this techniques prevalence. Very interesting, and it explains why this woman looks gigantic (and celebrities get annoyed because T.V. adds ten lbs!)

http://puffin.creighton.edu/fapa/aikin/Web...ney/vandyck.jpg

It also explains (or tries to) the sudden appearance of the photo-realistic style in paintings in such a short time throughout Europe.

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