Hockney's claims

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Hockney's claims

From Juan Carlos Martinez

Published before 2005

Piet Spijkers wrote: I opened the link to your article and saw this first phrase. Well, we can debate of course, but please, on facts, not on interpretations. Hockney never said that "the Old Masters didn’t really know to draw and paint realistic images by direct observation, memory, or imagination."

But, I will read on.


Actually, Hockney did say something close to that, but not in his book. In a January 2000 New Yorker magazine article, where he was interviewed prior to the publication of the book. He was talking about the fine Bellini portrait of a Doge of Venice, which features prominently in the book, and he pointed out to the interviewer, "how precisely the pattern follows the contours of the cap — your eye thinks it's lying there perfectly. No way, absolutely no way that could have been eyeballed, no way mathematical perspective could account for such precision." The article is replete with such statements, as are others from around that time which quote Hockney after interviewing him. So, although he doesn’t go so far as to say so in the book, it’s obvious that the conclusions Hockney has arrived at are similar to what Brian says, and are what he expects the readers to come to, as well. It’s sort of like circumstantial evidence being laid out, but just falling short of actually stating a conclusion, which is left for the reader. It’s pretty obvious what he is implying, don’t you think? I mean, really, he frequently refers to Western art after a certain period as being “lens-based” art. That’s making his conclusions quite clear.

It’s true that Hockney has opened up an arena for debate, but to what end? It is an example of a lesser trying to bring down his betters (the old masters) by ascribing irrelevancies to them. He’s not advancing understanding of art one bit. Anyway, for me, his whole theory just falls on its face when he presents it by saying — again in the New Yorker article — that when he was looking intently at an Ingres drawing he had a revelation of sorts: “Wait, I've seen that line before. Where have I seen that line? And suddenly I realized, That's Andy Warhol's line." The utter irrelevancy and meaninglessness of that statement did it for me, right there and then (I don’t recall if that was in the book -- I don’t own it, but I have read it).