Unit 3

Secret History:

What is the David Hockney Falco thesis?

The Hockney Falco thesis explores the history behind art and how significantly paintings and drawings had changed throughout the years in such a small period of time. Hockney believed that artwork had been getting more realistic in terms of lighting and and textures due to the use of optical lenses and equipment, Hockney believed this was down to the Camera obscura, curved mirrors and camera lucida rather than the artists themselves actually significantly improving their skills and techniques. Hockney in a documentary went over some artwork from Old Masters and analysed the textures and positioning of both the artwork that was drawn such as people or objects, to lighting areas and textures on clothing such as reflective areas on cloth such as silk. During his documentary and analysis Hockney went on to prove that the level of accuracy Old Masters Artwork was showing just was not humanly possible for that time period.  Hockney argued that the level of accuracy shown was too much for a person who would have been “simply eyeballing it.”  The origin of the thesis came from a visit that Hockney had done to the National Art Gallery in 1999 where Hockney observed work from artists such as Jan Van Eyck and Lorenzo Lotto. Hockney was viewing A variety of portraits by an artist called Jean Auguste Ingres and was amazing and shocked by how accurate the paintings were and from then was convinced that Ingres had been using a camera lucida. From about 1420 on wards Hockney had become increasing suspicious of how accurate portraits and painting were starting to become.

Evidence to suggest this theory:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

During the Secret History documentary hockney had analysed these portraits. The 3 men around the table showed Hockney problems that could not really be seen by a passing eye. The man on the left has his left had enlarged making his hand bigger than the fruit bowl on the table. Hockney explained this was because A Optical was used to capture the image of the man by himself. As a lens has focus and at the time could only make images appear very small. the artist would then almost trace the image that was being reflected and then enlarge the image. As the man has his hand closer to the lens his hand appears bigger than what it actually is.


To support his thesis, Hockney had designed and put together a wall of various portraits and paintings over time. Hockney analyses the sudden jump to realism and how he believe camera opticals help. As optical’s capture a live still image, They are able to recreate and draw perfectly the lighting and shapes of faces and features to create the most realist painting. As light reflects through the lens, darker areas and lighter areas to give the picture an atmospheric setting with enriched colour was made easy with the use of an optical lens. Although the pictures where not permanent, they would not fade away or take half as much time to create. Hockney explained how a camera obscura can capture things that the naked eye simply cannot.  Hockney showed how faces and details had significantly increased over the 13th to 14th century.

Is using a lens to create an image cheating?

Due to the increase in technology and changes over the years, I do not believe using a lens to capture an image is cheating. I believe lens and the use of optical create a perfect image showing off the most realistic version for what your capturing as well as capture all the small details that the human eye cannot pick up. It is quicker, easier and more efficient to use a lens as it does all the work for you. There is no strain on the eye to create an almost perfect image and recreate identical shading and lighting that a lens can do in seconds. However i do believe lens and optical take away some of the artistic nature to a painting or image. You see an image as it is projected through the lens, you do not see the skill or prospective of the artist. I still believe both types of artwork have their place in modern society and the use of human eye and skill is still highly respected and valued as this can allow an artist to be more creative with what they create as we see in modern sculptures or abstract.

Did the Camera kill art?


1839-1860. An inventor named Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre came up with an idea that shaped the way art was overlooked today. He created the first ever commercially working camera process. He was able to process A still image onto a silver copper plate. Although the images were very fragile, They captured a live image with precision, detail and very accurately. The silver copper plate was often very heavy and vulnerable so had to be shown off in a special casing such as Jewelry box or a folding case. From 1840 on wards many artists and studios opened there doors to this idea and many people would then use a Daguerreotype in the means to capture a live image, Historical event or a detailed portrait. The Daguerreotype was very expensive at the time so painters although decreasing still had their role. The Daguerreotype consisted of a lens manufactured by Parisian optical, A tripod to uphold the camera, A box with mercury vapor and a soft pad for buffing the plates along with the silver copper plates themselves.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The Growth of the Daguerreotype made later inventors realize they could capture Live images with exceptional detail and precision much more quickly that painting, and so many tried to recreate and better the invention. The market for the camera did not grow immediately as during this time it frightened a lot of people who had not seen a live image stare back at them so perfectly. The camera was able to capture images and events almost perfectly from lighting to detail. The Daguerreotype was mainly used for portraits at the time. The detailed image reflection off a copper plate with no negative made it easy for people to carry that of their loved ones. As the plates were very small and able to fit in the hand, many would carry around with them a portrait. Although paintings were still very popular, people caved to the idea of an exact replica to what they wanted to see such as a live image rather than a representation by an artist. This allowed people the freedom to capture an image exactly as it was shown and in terms of portraits this helped people remember or see pictures of their loved ones exactly how they would view them face to face. The detail and precision of a camera became very popular.


So with the rise of cameras, I do not believe the camera killed art. I believe the camera is a unique form of art that shows a more live reflection with much more detail. However i believe the views and skills of an artist is still greatly appreciated to this day. An artist can create with no boundaries and give his/her own unique view and perception on what they create. Artists and paintings give impressionism, cubism and surrealism. And in my opinion the camera merely gave an artist more options. In the 1960’s an artist called John Baldessari explained how he used Photography almost exclusively, however it wasn’t the captions he prized, he explained the camera can be used as a quick way to implement new ideas. “I was using photography almost exclusively in my work. But it wasn’t photography that I was interested in, but what art might be, and how photography could give me a quick way to implement my ideas.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Sites referenced:




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s