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Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,891 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
Recently, David Hockney, often described as the "world's most popular artist", has made headlines not with his own work but with his sensational and controversial theories about how some of Western art's famous masterpieces -- paintings by artists such as da Vinci, Caravaggio, Velazquez, and Van Eyck -- were actually created. A chance observation of a drawing in London's N ...more
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published October 29th 2001 by Studio (first published 2001)
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Lois Bujold
Oct 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in art, optics, or how the world is seen
Recommended to Lois by: mentioned in documentary film

I came to this via the film Tim's Vermeer and the excellence of my county library.

Well, this is certainly not a book one could read on a Kindle. Hockney works a compelling example of "show, don't tell", though to be fair he does both. The book opens with a long section of large-format and well-reproduced pictures of paintings, essential to and the foundation of his arguments, goes on to a section of select quotes from historical documents about the uses of mirrors and lenses from Roman times onw
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Beverly
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, british, art
Remarkable! Hockney convincingly demonstrates that, starting around 1430, artists used optical devices to capture figures and landscapes realistically. This accounts for distortions in perspective and Caravagio-like shadows because of the strong light needed to use lenses.
Impressionists and post-impressionists wanted to do something new and so became post-lens artists. This is a subject that has profound implications for the translation of three dimensional reality into two dimensions as is done
...more
Al Bità
Jun 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This handsome publication sets down for the record David Hockney's long and detailed exploration of the techniques and technologies that may have been used by the great masters of European painting. He concentrates on the 500 year period from the beginning of the fifteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century. In the process one is led to a complete re-evaluation and re-appreciation of their work.

The journey was not simple or straightforward. It began with a close examination of Ingres,
...more
Hanne
Mar 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The secret knowledge is een fantastisch boek van de hand van een van mijn favoriete hedendaagse kunstenaars, David Hockney. Een paar jaar geleden haalde ik het al eens uit de bib, geprikkeld als ik was door de titel. Vandaag heb ik het voor de tweede keer uitgelezen en uitgekeken en niet begrepen hoe het kan dat ik dit nooit te horen kreeg in de vele uren kunstgeschiedenis.

Dit boek is opgehangen aan het vermoeden van Hockney dat veel schilders sinds het midden van de 15de eeuw optische hulpmidde
...more
Bart
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most remarkable books I can recall ever reading about any subject. It is so iconoclastic and written with such authority by a person so accomplished as a practitioner in the field he examines that the experience it provides is unique and the euphoria it induces is real.

Beginning with Van Eyck and heading forward through most every painter of note - Caravaggio, Velazquez and Vermeer most of all - they all used optics, lenses specifically, to accomplish the miracles they created
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Sheona
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
Great book.

I love controversy especially when it targets the art world, when it stirs up the way we perceive and look at great masterful works of art; when it throws a whole new massive spanner into the works.

Optics or eyeballed?

That is the question.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, I savoured it because of the artwork and the new light shining on them. (I still find myself today picking it up to satisfy a looming question, checking out uncertainties.)

The author has written a good book wit
...more
Wayne
Jun 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books about art, because there is a specific theory directly tied to how artwork is created and then many illustrations are deployed to prove the theory. Topics like biography, motivation, symbolism, etc are put to the side to focus on how artists see. The discussion on drawing with camera lucida is interesting, as Hockney brings up the concept that certain lines look more confident, but also he can see duration of time in lines (which lines were drawn at certain speeds). Hockney ...more
Ryan
Sep 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
Researched and written by British artist David Hockney, this is a compelling book which explores the "how" of painting historically. Hockney's thesis is that artists — particularly those working in the Dutch and Flemish heyday like Van Eyck or Rembrandt — were aided by lenses, optics, and mirrors to help them craft realistic artworks.

In this visual essay, Hockney proposes that these high-tech methods date back hundreds of years further back than the common conception among art historians. The b
...more
Jonathan
Jan 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
Pointed out some necessary things for a painter to realize. I sort of understood in general terms that old masters used particular techniques to produce some of the most realistic looking paintings ever made, but this told of those on the specific level when and why they used them and most importantly how. Optics played an important role in the development of old masters techniques and how those really shaped the reasoning and purpose of painting from the 17th century of painting to now. Hockney ...more
James Eckman
An interesting read, bad photoshop art has a long history.

The controversy is fun reading, see Wikipedia for details. On that note many of the paintings in the book are located near where I live and having inspected them after reading this book I can see optical distortion caused by the use of simple lenses, based on my image processing and optical design experience. Critics of the theory will have to explain how a 15th century artist "faked" that look. Unless of course the actual paintings don'
...more
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David Hockney was born in Bradford, England, on July 9, 1937. He loved books and was interested in art from an early age, admiring Picasso, Matisse and Fragonard. His parents encouraged their son’s artistic exploration, and gave him the freedom to doodle and daydream.

Hockney attended the Bradford College of Art from 1953 to 1957. Then, because he was a conscientious objector to military service, h
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More about David Hockney...