The science of optics: Recent revelations about the history of art

David Hockney, Charles M. Falco

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations


We have discovered a variety of types of optical evidence that demonstrate artists as early as Jan van Eyck and Robert Campin (c1425) used optical projections as aids for producing certain elements in their paintings. We also found optical evidence within works by well-known later artists, including Bermejo (c1475), Lotto (c1525), Caravaggio (c1600), de la Tour (c1650), Chardin (c1750) and Ingres (c1825), showing that the use of optical projections by artists continued up to the development of photography and beyond. However, it is important to emphasize this does not mean that paintings are effectively photographs. The mind as well as the hand of the artist is intimately involved in the creation process, so these complex images are much more than simply traced images that have been projected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Nature of Light
Subtitle of host publicationLight in Nature IV
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012
EventThe Nature of Light: Light in Nature IV - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Aug 12 2012Aug 12 2012

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X


OtherThe Nature of Light: Light in Nature IV
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA


  • Art
  • Holbein
  • Human vision
  • Image analysis
  • Paintings
  • Renaissance
  • Van Eyck

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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