- Hardcover: 296 pages
- Publisher: Viking Studio; 1 edition (October 29, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670030260
- ISBN-13: 978-0670030262
- Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 1.2 x 12.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 134 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters Hardcover – October 29, 2001
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British painter David Hockney, well known for his cool and lovely paintings of California pools, has taken on the new role of detective. For two years Hockney seriously investigated the painting techniques of the old masters, and like any admirable sleuth, compiled substantial evidence to support his revolutionary theory. Secret Knowledge is the fruit of this labor, an exhaustive treatise in pictures revealing clues that some of the world's most famous painters, Ingres, Velázquez, Caravaggio (just to mention a few) utilized optics and lenses in creating their masterpieces. Hockney's fascination with the subject is contagious, and the book feels almost like a game with each analysis a "How'd they do that?" instead of a whodunit. While some may find the technical revelation a disappointment in terms of the idea of genius, Hockney is quick to point out that the use of optics does not diminish the immensity of artistic achievement. He reminds the reader that a tool is just a tool, and it is still the artist's hand and creative vision that produce a work of art. (296 pages, 460 illustrations, 402 in color.) --J.P. Cohen
About the Author
David Hockney was born in England in 1937 and studied at the Royal College of Art. He achieved international acclaim by his mid-twenties as part of the pop art movement and has gone on to become one of the best known artists of his generation.
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Even though I knew about many of the mechanical drawing apparatuses that have been employed at various times throughout history, Hockney explains them so well and shows so many examples that I feel as though I am learning about them anew. I was also intrigued that he touched upon one of the things that has forever intrigued me - why a reversed image looks so different from the original and that seeing an image one way and be infinitely more pleasing than seeing it reversed. He goes into much detail about this, and shows multiple examples, when he ponders over the high numbers of left-handed subjects in many old paintings. And that is just for starters.
The number of visuals in this book rivals any that I have seen and, even though I have not counted, it certainly appears that visual examples outnumber text blocks by quite a bit. The visuals accompanying Holbein's "The Ambassadors" show exactly what so many people miss about it, and illustrates why the painting is mounted in such a way that makes it possible to view from the upper right corner. If you sit in that room in the National Gallery, you will notice that hardly anyone ever walks to that spot and looks - they have no idea what fun they are missing!
On a personal note, it was delightful to read that Hockney has the same fascination with the Arnolfini portrait as I, and doubtless many other people, do, and also to learn why. And I think that's what art lovers will like most about this book - that they have occasionally noticed the same exact details that a great artist has also seen, and that indeed is a very exciting thing.
I enjoyed the read.
A big book with much to study