Secret Knowledge

Secret Knowledge

Rediscovering the lost techniques of the Old Masters

  1. David Hockney
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  • ISBN 9780500286388
  • 30.00 x 23.70 cm
  • Paperback with flaps
  • 328pp
  • 510 Illustrations, 442 in colour
  • First published 2006

New and expanded edition

‘The most talked-about art book of the year’ – Sunday Times
It will change our views of Western painting – London Review of Books
Hockney has utterly transformed the scope and basis of the debate… He is making us look at things afresh – Martin Kemp, University of Oxford
'Hockney is a superb communicator, his prose as lithe and vivid as his own pencil line'– The Guardian
‘Sparkling, brilliantly analysed treatise on the use of optics in art and
one of the most important books on painting published in the last 100 years
– State magazine

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Secret Knowledge created a sensation when it was first published.

David Hockney’s enthralling story of how some of the great works of Western art were created with the help of mirrors and lenses and how the optical look came to dominate painting attracted major media attention around the world and generated intense debate in the fields of science and art history. Now in this expanded edition, Hockney takes his thesis even further, revealing for the first time new and exciting discoveries.

Hockney became gripped by a desire to find out how the artists of the past had managed to depict the world around them so accurately and vividly. As a painter faced with similar technical problems, he asked himself: ‘How did they do this?’ For the next two years, he sacrificed his own time as an artist to follow trail, obsessively tracking down the hidden secrets of the Old Masters. As news of his controversial investigations spread, he enlisted the support of scientists and art historians worldwide.

Hockney recounts the story as it unfolded. He examines the major works of art history and reveals the truth of how such artists as Caravaggio, Velázquez, Van Eyck, Holbein, and Ingres used mirrors and lenses to help them create their famous masterpieces.

For this new edition, Hockney demonstrates, with the aid of drawings, paintings and photographs of his own experiments, how Renaissance artists developed perspective and chiaroscuro – radically challenging our view of how these foundations of Western art were established.

Hundreds of paintings and drawings – among them the best-known and best-loved works in the history of Western art – are reproduced and accompanied by Hockney’s infectious and enthusiastic descriptions. His own photographs and drawings illustrate the various methods used by past artists to capture accurate likenesses, and present the results they would have achieved.

Extracts from the many documents that he uncovered offer further intriguing evidence, while his correspondence with an array of international experts provides an exciting account of the remarkable story as it unfolded.

Secret Knowledge is not just about the lost techniques of the Old Masters. It is also about how we see, treat and make images in an age of computer manipulation. Taking nothing for granted, questioning received ideas and practice, Hockney opens our eyes to the way we perceive and represent the world – a privileged insight into the history of art by an outstandingly prolific and original artist.

David Hockney is perhaps the most critically acclaimed and universally popular artist of our age. He has produced work in almost every medium – painting, drawing, stage design, photography and printmaking – and has stretched the boundaries of all of them.