Response to <u>Hockney the Hackneyed</u>

Home / Education / ARChives / Foundational Discussions

Response to <u>Hockney the Hackneyed</u>

From Jonathan Grimm

Published before 2005


Mr. Thomas Hauge wrote:

[Hockney] also backs up the theory that lenses were used by many major and minor masters by pointing out the astonishing difference in quality between sketches and finished works, the complete absence of any sketches by some masters, and the scarcity or absence of any underdrawing in, say, Hals' superb paintings [...]

Mr. Hauge,

The current absence of extant prepatory sketches in the works of many Old Masters has to do with the LACK of material value such pieces held for many centuries. In fact, these "prepatory sketches" or Cartoons, if you will, were often scored with graph lines in preparation for transfer to board, wall, or in later years, canvas. This was known as Il Metodo Grata. Often these sketches were quickly discarded afterwards.

The Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento has such a large collection of Old Master drawings simply because many art dealers gave them away to good customers.

It was only in later years, the last century really, that effort has been made to preserve these sketches.

Leonardo's cartoons have survived, not because he was the ONLY one who could "draw" realistically but because, unfortunately he did not always complete commissions and the patrons were sometimes left only with the sketches themselves - which they of course kept.

It is also important to note that artists worked out PROBLEMS in their prepatory sketches, in the same way film makers will make quick thumbnails of desired scenes, so that in the final product, or as it was once called the "master piece" the bugs were worked out. This accounts for the difference in quality between studies and the finished paintings.

Franz Hals, and other "alla prima" painters are the GREATEST argument AGAINST the use of mechanical devices as the corrections they made in proportions and shapes are visible to x-rays and in numerous old paintings ghosts of previous over painted shapes are visible - this is called pentimente. Also, they "blocked in shapes and values, something only a competent draftsman can do. Why would they "correct" a traced shape?

There are serious experts on Old Master techniques who will argue that many painters experimented with optical devices however it is a truism that those who cannot draw well cannot paint well and anyone familiar with the apprentice system of the Renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century knows that students were not allowed to touch colours before mastering accurate drawing. Furthermore, a major use of mechanical devices such as the wire grid illustrated in the Durer woodcut was to study rules of perspective.

My problem with Hockney's authority on this is that he is not an expert on the type of painting he critiques and, by his own admission, he spent only five years of part time research on the subject before writing his book. There are experts who have spent a LIFETIME studying the subject - and these are the authorities I consult and respect.

- Jonathan Grimm