Thursday, March 12, 2009

Caravaggio Cheated

well, not really, he just did what many artists have done throughout history
Caravaggio used 'photography' to create dramatic masterpieces.

Amor Vincit Omnia by Caravaggio

There are many purists/art snobs who claim that the use of projector or a photograph is cheating and will dismiss the work of an artist who does use them. The interesting problem with that view is that they will have to dismiss a whole slew of artists in history whose painting and drawing skills are unquestioned. One can't just copy a photograph/use a projector and render a realistic painting without a solid background in drawing, and anatomy/life drawing.
Vermeer and the Camera Obscura

Famous Painters who copied photographs.

So next time someone gives you a hard time about using photographs or a projector (camera obscura) tell them if it was good enough for Caravaggio, Canaletto, Vermeer, Sir Joshua Reynolds it's good enough for you.

Better to use your own photographs (or with permission of the photographer) unless you want to get in a pickle like Sheperd Fairey
From the view of a photographer on the use of their images please check out
Visual Perspective on the issue of copyright.


Undaunted said...

Well that explains a lot of things for me. Some of those models are in very awkward positions which I'm sure they couldn't have held for any length of time. Some of those "great" artists didn't even do a particularly good job even with a photo! Off on a bit of a tangent here, but I often wonder what makes these artists of old "great", when in reality there are many artists in today's world whose work is far superior and yet they are complete "nobodies".

Anyway, what I really want to know is, where is that cupids other hand? Is he picking his bum or what??

David Howard said...

Yes, your right Jafagirl, artists have been using devices of all types to make their art - David Hockney made an interesting doco just on this subject.

It doesn't really matter how you make yer art - makin' it is the trick. But I do agree, that one should use your own resources as much as possible. I have used photos, computers, projectors, tracings, printings and all manner of evils, cos sometimes I just can't stop myself.

Keep up the blogs, Jafapower - this is a marathon your running.

JafaBrit's Art said...

oh dear I will never look at this image again and not think of what you asked undaunted LOL!
Well you know, vermeer was a nobody for a 100 years and then a somebody wrote and essay an then vermeer became a somebody. Maybe some of the current nobodies will become somebodies when other somebodies notice them. lol!

I think I read about Hockney doing an article or something about it David, will have to check it out. oh I ordered that book you talked about on your blog about the economy (looked interesting). Not sure why I am on a marathon, guess it must be filling a need at the moment. I seem to be in a period of exploration and processing before my next venture into painting etc.

Casey Klahn said...

Well presented.

I don't hate the camera for the tool it is. I have a bad relationship with it for other reasons - the chief being that I don't know how to use one!

I like the opaque projector for displaying an image. How old school is that? Recently, I have relied upon the scanner for recording my thumbnail pencil sketches and then having them available on the pc or to print and tape on my easel.

BTW, thanks for the many articles you refer to, JB. I get a lot from them, and can almost rely on your reviews for all the broader art reading I need!

Bill Evertson said...

For a great use of camera obscura try artist Shaun Irving's work at the March 11th post on He uses a box truck as a large mobil camera.

Judith HeartSong said...

good morning Jafa:)

It is so nice to see your reference photo for this piece. I take reference photos, and for me they are usually a jumping off point to where I am going. Some of my paintings are completed with no reference photos, like the female nude Dream, and others use several references to get some detail or another right.

reference photos are a tool.

painter girl said...

Oh I have missed so much!
Love this topic. Interesting thoughts first thing in the morning. Can't wait to come back and catch up. I need a Jafa fix.

L.M.Noonan said...

Often I just want to shake those people—until their teeth rattle-- who say it’s not proper art if you use any of these devices. Devices! Artists have used anything that can to help them convey what they see in their minds eye. Many of the ‘greats’ used the camera obscura. Having ‘hands’ is only a small part of the equation. Having an idea, an original spin on something…well that’s different. I’m with you painter girl, I’ve missed altogether too much.

Briana & Troy Scott said...

Thanks so much for posting this article. It speaks to so many issues I have with people who think using photos, transfers and projectors as cheating. I use photographs for references and for architectural drawings, and use different techniques to mark out proportions to create a realistic likeness-photos are an invaluable tool for me. Although I prefer working from life, sometimes I have neither the time or the ability--I paint children's portraits as well and the wee ones can not hold poses for very long.