University of South Africa, Pretoria
 Susan Grundy
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Some experts disparage Hockney...

However, despite Stork’s rebuttal being seriously flawed (in this instance), does that make Hockney right (in this instance)? Most art historians don’t think so. For example, Metropolitan Museum Curator Dr Keith Christiansen questions the use of lenses as described by Hockney. “Why … would artists such as Michelangelo and Caravaggio, who routinely made freehand sketches before painting, need the aid of blurry, upside-down images?”11 And Catherine Puglisi, associate art history professor at Rutgers and author of a Caravaggio monograph, states quite categorically that Hockney’s claims are a-historical. “Caravaggio was perfectly capable of painting without a model when he so chose … [he was] not copying from an image reflected by such a camera,” she says.12 Firstly, Hockney never claimed that Michelangelo (Buonarroti)13 used optics. Hockney is very clear that he believes some artists used optical aids, and some did not. Secondly, I am not really sure what Professor Puglisi means by Caravaggio doing it without a model. Does she mean he made things up? Or does she mean he assembled figures like the consummate draftsman and contemporary Domenichino did?14 But Caravaggio left no drawings, detailed studies of head, hands and feet – the difficult parts. There is no evidence, beneath the oil, that Caravaggio ever drew at all.15 Third, the making of routine preliminary sketches is hardly telling evidence that Caravaggio didn’t use technology. Even today, with all the computer assistance in the world, artists rough out designs and ideas by hand.

...And some scholars support Hockney

On the pro-side of the debate, Dr John Spike of Florence has been enthusiastically supportive of Hockney’s theories for Caravaggio from the beginning of the debate. He is mentioned in Hockney’s Secret Knowledge, and also lectured on Caravaggio and optics in the following years. Early on Spike drew a correlation between the scorings found in many of Caravaggio’s paintings, and how these relate to specific areas of the artist’s compositions. He notes that these scorings could have been used to concentrate and refocus an image projection. Importantly, Spike has also directed his research towards discovering how Caravaggio could have exploited the many optical effects produced by a camera obscura image projection, and has shown how the artist could have left areas purposefully out-of-focus, for example. (See John T. Spike, Caravaggio, New York, 2001, 70, 84, 158.)


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