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In a paper published in the Journal of Optics, Mr. O’Neill lays out a theory that Rembrandt set up flat and concave mirrors to project his subjects – including himself – onto surfaces before painting or etching them.

He is not the first to suggest that old master painters used optics for their famous portraits. The theory, known as the Hockney-Falco thesis, generated controversy among scientists and art historians, some of whom took the findings as an implication that old master painters had “cheated” to produce their works.

The new research also drawn criticism. However, its writer says that the goal of the research was to show how the use of optics “makes us look at artists as scientists” and not to discredit Rembrandt.

“People have accused me of being jealous, or trying to discredit Rembrandt, but that’s not at all what I’m trying to do”, he said. “If you gave a projection to someone on the street and told them to make a masterpiece, they would never give you a Rembrandt”. At the same time scientists had just started using lenses to look at things invisibly small through microscopes and at the stars through telescopes, artists were using lenses to study the world around them, he said. (1)

Rembrandt drew masterpieces. Because of some inner need he had. Because this filled his soul with pleasure. People saw those masterpieces. And they liked it. Because they filled some inner need they had. Because these paintings filled their soul with pleasure. Or perhaps (and more… mysteriously) for no reason at all.

And yet.

Did he use mirrors?

Did he use oil?

Did he use lenses?

Typical scientists.

Always wondering for the how.

Leaving the important questions (why) for the big boys (Philosophy)…

Imagine a world where all “scientific questions” are answered. Imagine a world where we know and understand all the “how did that happen”. Look at the mirror.  Now go and drop dead. Out of pure boredom.

Explain THAT science!

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