Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters

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9780142005125: Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters

David Hockney takes us on an enthralling intellectual and visual journey as he rewrites the story of how the great drawings and paintings of the last six centuries were created. He demonstrates for the first time how artists as far back as the 15th century used mirrors and lenses to project colour images onto flat surfaces and then captured these projections in pencil and paint. As well as being the presentation of more than two years' research, Secret Knowledge is an amazing detective story, as Hockney uncovers piece after piece of scientific and historical evidence, each one revealing further secrets of the past.

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Review:

David Hockney's brilliant Secret Knowledge is the fruit of his practical and historical investigation into how artists from the 15th century onward produced such vividly realistic drawings and paintings. Hockney's conclusions are simple but devastating. He argues that, "from the early 15th century many Western artists used optics--by which I mean mirrors and lenses (or a combination of the two)--to create living projections". The results are extraordinary. Secret Knowledge carefully explains how Masaccio, Van Eyck, Holbein, Caravaggio, Vermeer and Ingres all used optical aids, as it carefully takes apart the paintings and recreates the instruments and techniques used by artists from as early as the 1430s.

Hockney concedes that his opinions have been attacked by the mainstream art world that has complained that "for an artist to use optical aids would be 'cheating'; that somehow I was attacking the idea of innate genius". As a practising artist himself, his response is persuasive: "optics would have given artists a new tool with which to make images that were more immediate, and more powerful". Hockney concludes that this does not "diminish their achievements. For me, it makes them all the more astounding". Hockney's evidence is compelling and convincing, and brilliantly conveyed in this beautiful book, complete with details, foldouts and over 400 illustrations in sumptuous colour. Secret Knowledge also contains a collection of primary evidence detailing artist's use of optical devices, and Hockney's correspondence on the subject over the last two years. This book will revolutionise how we look at the art of the past. As Hockney himself suggests, "exciting times are ahead". --Jerry Brotton

Review:

'This book enriches the reader's understanding of the painting process and encourages us to look at paintings afresh. A valuable edition to any art educator's library.'
--Start Online

'A book of distinction which reshapes a valuable period of art history' --The Sunday Business Post

'Sumptuously illustrated, intriguing' --What's On in London

'A fascinating insight from an artist's viewpoint into the methods of great painters from Giotto to Cezanne, and also a stunning gallery of major paintings' --The Artist

'A theory that has shaken the art world to its roots ... a great excuse to look at the Old Masters in a new light'
--The Daily Express

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