View Full Version : Which help accessories have used the old Masters?

02-15-2008, 04:39 PM

Knows anyone, if the old Masters like Rembrandt, da vinci etc. have used help accessories for initial sketching and painting in there work?

OR was all so genius that, they paint through on empty canvas?


02-15-2008, 05:46 PM
Many of them used grids or even camera obscuras. Its the preparatory sketches for their finished pieces that make it clear they knew how to draw, they just used the aids to speed things up and lend accuracy.

02-15-2008, 05:52 PM
Marsias -
From my readings on art history it seems that from almost the earliest days artists were trying to develop ways of improving the accuracy of their sketching and painting. Many of the very earliest, mostly religous, paintings appear flat and often proportions odd because it took some time before artists began to understand concepts of how to depict perspective of 3d on a 2d surface. Some very early Madonnas (not the one that sings) with child often portrayed the infant in such a way that the appearance was not of a child but an adult scaled down in size.

Why are babies cute?? Because different parts of the body grow at different rates. The head of an infant makes up (these are rough figures since I am working from memory) about 1/4+or- of the child's body length. This changes as we grow so that an adult the ratio is somewhere around 1/8, or so.

As technology and science developed, artists, often "scientists" themselves, were eager to take advantage of new devices and concepts to improve their work. Many think of DaVinci as an artist, but while he sketched incessantly many of the ideas in his journals were ideas for technical (many times military) devices. He often would emphasize his knowledge of the technology of warfare in trying to secure patronage.

Perhaps the most recently discussed and "debated" device was one called the CAMERA OBSCURA. Basically this is a large darkened "room" (perhaps tentlike to be modile device in which the canvas was set up and light entering from illumination of a brightly lit scene by means of a tiny opening created, in effect, a gigantic pinhole camera which was thought to be used to get the initial sketch and perspective correct (much as we sometimes do by projecting images onto the support). If you are interested I would be glad to dig up some references for you that discuss this in more detail.

I have a huge book on VanGogh and there is a letter in it to his brother and patron Theo in which he describes an idea for a device to aid in getting correct perspective sketches. Several examples of variations on what is basically a pane of glass with a grid etched on it that the artist looked at the composition through is the same as the principle used today in "squaring up" or "squaring down" with grid lines on picture and support in the proper ratio.

Will try to dig up more if interested. Gotta run now and get ready for a concert I'm singing in.


02-15-2008, 06:09 PM

Thanks all.

Bill: I have a movie with Scarlette Johansson called "The Girl with the Pearlearing". In the Movie the Painter (van meer) has used a Camera obscura and i know what is this.

I am Curios. if my favorite Master, Rembrandt has used any kinds of Helps accessories, to you know this?


02-15-2008, 06:44 PM
There's a book, Secret Knowledge, where the artist David Hockney claims that many Old Masters used various optical devices in the creation of their paintings and names names in the best muckraker's fashion. I haven't read the book myself, but according to a book reviewer on Amazon, Rembrandt wasn't mentioned, so either he didn't or was cleverer than most and kept it so well hidden that we'll never know (or the reviewer skipped over that part of the book!).

Pat Isaac
02-16-2008, 09:35 AM
It's true that many of the masters used different aids to transfer their sketches to larger paintings. I am not sure about Rembrandt. If you look at his etchings, which are very small, it is apparent that he drew these wonderful sketches on the plate. I saw a show of his etchings recently and it showed his process.

Gridding is a popular way of transfer.


02-16-2008, 11:23 AM
Michelangelo use to put small pin holes in his sketches and them drip paint thru them onto his supports. I saw a exhibit of his sketches last year and that was a blurb. Salvador Dali, in his hilarious art manifesto 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship, indicates that he used the same technique. That was one of his 50 secrets. He also makes a hilarioius argument for realism in the objective vs. non-objective art debate.. He also goes to lengths to prove that he was not a mad man and that a painter should be a happy, sober soul.