Loeb Danish Ardt Collection - page 181

A motif such as the Loeb collection painting of the woman putting branches in a vase was scarcely cre-
ated on the basis of direct observation. It is much more likely to have been found by viewing through the
eld of vision a
orded by a lens. The use of optics would also explain why Hammershøi was at times
tempted by quite extreme angles and introduced elements such as unfocused objects in the foreground that
would have been excluded in a traditional painting. His predilection for an idiosyncratic cropping of his
motifs is seen in other interiors from Strandgade more clearly than in the two paintings in the Loeb collec-
tion under discussion here, and this is also the case in the later paintings from his Bredgade apartment.
It was the painter David Hockney (b.
) who in
launched the discussion on artists’ use of optics
since the Renaissance, originally to the horror of many art historians.
After having experimented with the
use of a camera lucida to draw portraits, Hockney embarked on a more systematic examination of the use
of optics in an earlier age, a use that has not only been forgotten but actually kept secret because the use of
such aids has over the years been considered dishonest. Likewise, the direct use by painters of photographs
as patterns from which to work has also been viewed with disapproval. In
Secret Knowledge
, Hockney
emphasises time and time again that the use of optics leaves no trace, which could be the explanation for
why there appear to be no surviving drawn or photographed preparatory studies for Hammershøi’s interi-
ors. In addition, Hockney points out that there is only a very slight depth de
nition in a camera lucida, and
that the artist typically moves his apparatus several times while working. This means—still according to
Hockney—that several vanishing points
appear in his drawing or painting that are unrelated to each other,
whereby the artist in reality abandons classical perspective. On the other hand, a new dynamic emerges that
gives the painter fresh possibilities.
It is my theory that Hammershøi used the aid of optics, and that in his late interiors he wanted to
explore the artistic potential they o
ered him. His interiors appear to reproduce reality, but the suggestive
atmosphere, which appeals to the viewer and which has invited so many interpretations, can very well be
due to the fact that they are not exclusively linear perspective constructions. Hammershøi created his own
unique picture universe; he wanted to do more than recreate reality.
In actual fact, he was well on his way
into an image creation touching on Cubism and other radical
th-century innovations.
Stenographic interview with C.C. Clausen in the periodical
. Dag,
, p.
These theories were proposed in the catalogue for the exhibition in the National Photo Museum in the Royal Library, Copenhagen, in
where I also wrote on the Skagen artists’ relationship to photography and optics. The Ancher family possessed and used a still existing camera
lucida, as did the Norwegian Skagen painters Fritz Thaulow (
) and Christian Krohg (
). The surviving parts of P.S. Krøyer’s
camera lucida are in Skagens Museum.
David Hockney,
Secret Knowledge, Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters
, London
. With an unprejudiced eye and with unusual
visual sensitivity, Hockney illustrated the subject on the basis of an enormous amount of pictorial material that he brought for discussion to
various scientists who were able to con
rm and supplement his results. The so-called Hockney-Falco thesis is now the subject of serious dis-
cussion in the art world.
When photographing (or constructing a perspective of ) a room, face to the back wall, the side walls—normally of the same height—seem
to get smaller the farther away they are. If you put a rule on the lines of these walls they will all meet in one point: the vanishing point.
I am continuing my explorations of Hammershøi’s methods.
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