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

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

From Fred Ross

Published before 2005

[ ARC is just about ready to publish to other articles explaining just how preposterous Hockney’s theory is, when we received a letter from an irate visitor who clearly had been influence by reading Hockney’s book. His letter and the response by ARC’s Chairman are highly important in demonstrating the dangers in teaching as history and reality total fabrications like those of David Hockney’s, which have been then picked up by an art establishment with an agenda other than the fair and honest recounting of art history. ]

Dear Thomas,

This is an extremely sincere letter, and it is not falling on deaf ears you can be sure. I will examine your comments briefly below. Your thoughts prove absolutely why it is necessary to fully and fairly demonstrate point by point why Hockney’s book and theory about the use of optical devices is absolutely wrong, without a shred of truth, and based on the flimsiest of evidence. We have nearly ready two more article on this subject which should be available shortly.

This is not the work of someone who has researched the time period and then, using the evidence, deduced that certain things occurred. To the contrary, he decided in advance what he wanted to have happened, and then went back and found only items that he could somehow force into his twisted hypothesis.

Let me briefly point out, that there is no question but that the overwhelming majority of great painting (99%+) were done without the use of such mechanical and visual tools, and anyone who has actively pursued the study of classical realism and traditional drawing knows that this statement is true. The purpose of Hockney's work is to attempt to denigrate realism, while throwing in equivocating gratuitous comments like you mentioned so that he can deny that's what he's doing.

Hockney's own painting would be laughable were it not taken seriously by the art establishment. And his own inability to draw on the level of a first year student in any of ARC's 52 Approved Ateliers, makes him totally unqualified to explore the subject he attempts to. Did he ever try to ask any of the best classical artists that are alive today to comment on his thoughts and then deal with their objections?

Did he permit any contrary evidence which is monumental, in to then analyze and mesh into his theory?

He has been challenged by many of our artists to test his theory by permitting a media event in which a dozen living masters, who don't currently enjoy society's recognition like he does, are able to draw free-hand the human form with great precision using no such devices. Only the development of such skills "frees" an artist to bring to fruition his/her artistic inspirations. Most of these artists have been trained in the still vibrant classical traditions that have been handed down by generations of instructors and apprentices. The use of the camera in creating compositions, indeed did play some extremely minor rôle, starting in the late 19th century, and the article on ARC by Gabe Weisberg, analyzing the work of Dagnan-Bouveret, is an honest and even-handed attempt to tell the truth about that use.

To respond to your comments:

It is absolutely not the most likely explanation or even any explanation of the abrupt shift to "near-photograpic realism that happens within a single decade in the 1430's". In fact, only a public shielded from the advanced levels of realism could possibly consider anything from that time period "near photographic". Show me a single work that meets that description? You can't, because it didn't happen that way.

The development of greatly improved realism starting in the 13th century especially seen in the works of Cimabue, Giotto and Van Der Weyden, was the product of improved methods of theory and discipline in how to see and how to train artists. The breakthroughs of one and two point perspective by Dürer accelerated this in the High Renaissance. If you look at multi-figure compositions of Rubens, Tiepolo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Gericault it is laughable to think that any such device could have possibly helped even one tiny bit.

The idea of the "photo-copying" and precise enlargements being done this way is also incorrect. A very precise method of using a grid to "point up" a drawing to a larger size has been in use for centuries.

The "astonishing" improvement in the finished works compared to sketches is not astonishing in the slightest. Most artist use sketches only as road maps for their ideas, and take far greater care and time with the finished work. It has nothing whatsoever to do with "devices" as he claims. And the lack of underdrawing in Hals and others is due to the great skills developed by these artists which enabled them to "draw with the brush" as they paint. In fact that is a well known idea and method which is taught to first year students in every atelier: that it is essential to learn how to do so as not to be restricted by the need of the under drawing. Hockney shows you a bad drawing by Honthorst and then a great painting by him and says that proves his painting was not based on his drawings. Do you actually believe that from this example or any of the others? I could show you awful early sketches by Bouguereau and then show you a great finished painting. But if I didn’t show you all of the intermediary drawings and those that he decided to fully “flesh out” I would have purposely obstructed your ability to see the truth by omitting most of the relevant evidence. It would be like saying that Shakespeare used an advanced computer to write his plays because his outlines for each of them was awful compared to the final product. What kind of illogical self-serving reasoning that would be if I was an awful playwright who could not put two words together with poetry or grace?

He suggests that "hyper-realism" became possible due to such equipment .... which is also not true. Nobody who knows and undstands the 500 year history of the development and implementation of traditional realism would characterize early Renaissance painting as hyper-realism. He needs to make it seem that the biggest changes occurred at that time in order to support his theory, but in fact there is a continuous, by-attrition, development of methods, techniques and accomplishments over a 500 year span, in which the finest works from the early 1400's don't compare "realistically" to the average work of thousands of artists by the late 19th century, all of whom had the advantages of learning from hundreds of little and large discoveries over that entire time span. Hockney repeatedly says that advances could not be explained due to improved skills in drawing, but in fact every single time he says that he is totally wrong and in fact every single advance he shows has been in fact achieved through advances is such skills.

Anyone who has actually been involved at composing and painting realistically on an advanced level knows that Hockney's theory is idiotic and absurd, and the fact that highly intelligent people like yourself can be so readily duped by this book perhaps explains why it's essential to clarify in a fully scholarly, point by point fashion why he is truly so very wrong.

Also, why, ask yourself, was Hockney of all people, motivated to write this book attempting to advance this concept? The answer is self-evident.

We have other articles almost ready to go about Hockney, but the shortage in staff has prevented our getting them on line yet. But I expect they'll be available before October.

Again, thank you for your letter. I hope I have clarified somewhat better the truth that is missing from Hockney's book, mostly by omission of most of the facts needed to make an informed judgment and then the jumping to preordained conclusions that help him in his quest for self-justification.

Fred Ross,
Art Renewal Center