Camera lucida

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Camera lucida in use Camera Lucida in use drawing small figurine.jpg
Camera lucida in use

A camera lucida is an optical device used as a drawing aid by artists.

Artist person who creates, practises and/or demonstrates any art

An artist is a person engaged in an activity related to creating art, practicing the arts, or demonstrating an art. The common usage in both everyday speech and academic discourse is a practitioner in the visual arts only. The term is often used in the entertainment business, especially in a business context, for musicians and other performers. "Artiste" is a variant used in English only in this context; this use is becoming rare. Use of the term to describe writers, for example, is valid, but less common, and mostly restricted to contexts like criticism.

Contents

The camera lucida performs an optical superimposition of the subject being viewed upon the surface upon which the artist is drawing. The artist sees both scene and drawing surface simultaneously, as in a photographic double exposure. This allows the artist to duplicate key points of the scene on the drawing surface, thus aiding in the accurate rendering of perspective.

Optics The branch of physics that studies light

Optics is the branch of physics that studies the behaviour and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behaviour of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light. Because light is an electromagnetic wave, other forms of electromagnetic radiation such as X-rays, microwaves, and radio waves exhibit similar properties.

History

Mr Jenkins cottage, Illawarra, John Rae.jpg
Scenery from Mr Jenkins cottage, Illawarra, ca. 1850, by John Rae, watercolour drawing created using a camera lucida, State Library of New South Wales, DL PXX 74 no.16

The camera lucida was patented in 1806 by William Hyde Wollaston. [1] [2] [3] The basic optics were described 200 years earlier by Johannes Kepler in his Dioptrice (1611), but there is no evidence he or his contemporaries constructed a working camera lucida. [4] By the 19th century, Kepler's description had fallen into oblivion, so Wollaston's claim was never challenged. The term "camera lucida" (Latin "well-lit room" as opposed to camera obscura "dark room") is Wollaston's. (cf. Edmund Hoppe, Geschichte der Optik, Leipzig 1926)

William Hyde Wollaston Scientist, physicist

William Hyde Wollaston was an English chemist and physicist who is famous for discovering the chemical elements palladium and rhodium. He also developed a way to process platinum ore into malleable ingots.

Johannes Kepler 17th-century German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer

Johannes Kepler was a German astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer. He is a key figure in the 17th-century scientific revolution, best known for his laws of planetary motion, and his books Astronomia nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae. These works also provided one of the foundations for Newton's theory of universal gravitation.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

While on honeymoon in Italy in 1833, the photographic pioneer William Fox Talbot used a camera lucida as a sketching aid. He later wrote that it was a disappointment with his resulting efforts which encouraged him to seek a means to "cause these natural images to imprint themselves durably".

In 2001, artist David Hockney's book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters was met with controversy. His argument, known as the Hockney-Falco thesis, is that the notable transition in style for greater precision and visual realism that occurred around the decade of the 1420s is attributable to the artists’ discovery of the capability of optical projection devices, specifically an arrangement using a concave mirror to project real images. Their evidence is based largely on the characteristics of the paintings by great artists of later centuries, such as Ingres, Van Eyck, and Caravaggio.

David Hockney, is an English painter, draftsman, printmaker, stage designer, and photographer. As an important contributor to the pop art movement of the 1960s, he is considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century.

Real image

In optics, a real image is an image which is located in the plane of convergence for the light rays that originate from a given object. If a screen is placed in the plane of a real image the image will generally become visible on the screen. Examples of real images include the image seen on a cinema screen, the image produced on a detector in the rear of a camera, and the image produced on an eyeball retina . In ray diagrams, real rays of light are always represented by full, solid lines; perceived or extrapolated rays of light are represented by dashed lines. A real image occurs where rays converge, whereas a virtual image occurs where rays only appear to diverge.

Jan van Eyck Flemish painter

Jan van Eyck was a Flemish painter active in Bruges. He is one of the early innovators of what became known as Early Netherlandish painting, and one of the most significant representatives of Early Northern Renaissance art. The surviving records of his early life indicate that he was born around 1380–1390, most likely in Maaseik, in present day Belgium. He took employment in the Hague around 1422, when he was already a master painter with workshop assistants, and employed as painter and valet de chambre with John III the Pitiless, ruler of Holland and Hainaut. He was then employed in Lille as court painter to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy after John's death in 1425, until he moved to Bruges in 1429 where he lived until his death. He was highly regarded by Philip and undertook a number of diplomatic visits abroad, including to Lisbon in 1428 to explore the possibility of a marriage contract between the duke and Isabella of Portugal.

The camera lucida is still available today through art-supply channels but is not well known or widely used. It has enjoyed a resurgence recently through a number of Kickstarter campaigns. [5]

Optics of Wollaston camera lucida Cameralucidadiagram.png
Optics of Wollaston camera lucida

Description

The name "camera lucida" (Latin for "light chamber") is obviously intended to recall the much older drawing aid, the camera obscura (Latin for "dark chamber"). There is no optical similarity between the devices. The camera lucida is a light, portable device that does not require special lighting conditions. No image is projected by the camera lucida.

In the simplest form of camera lucida, the artist looks down at the drawing surface through a glass pane or half-silvered mirror tilted at 45 degrees. This superimposes a direct view of the drawing surface beneath, and a reflected view of a scene horizontally in front of the artist. This design produces an inverted image which is right-left reversed when turned the right way up. Also, light is lost in the imperfect reflection.

Wollaston's design used a prism with four optical faces to produce two successive reflections (see illustration), thus producing an image that is not inverted or reversed. Angles ABC and ADC are 67.5° and BCD is 135°. Hence, the reflections occur through total internal reflection, so very little light is lost. It is not possible to see straight through the prism, so it is necessary to look at the very edge to see the paper. [6]

The instrument often came with an assortment of weak negative lenses, to create a virtual image of the scene at several distances. If the right lens is inserted, so that the chosen distance roughly equals the distance of the drawing surface, both images can be viewed in good focus simultaneously.

If white paper is used with the camera lucida, the superimposition of the paper with the scene tends to wash out the scene, making it difficult to view. When working with a camera lucida, it is often beneficial to use black paper and to draw with a white pencil.

Microscopy

As recently as a few decades ago,[ when? ] the camera lucida was still a standard tool of microscopists. [4] It is still a key tool in the field of palaeontology. Until very recently, photomicrographs were expensive to reproduce. Furthermore, in many cases, a clear illustration of the structure that the microscopist wished to document was much easier to produce by drawing than by micrography. Thus, most routine histological and microanatomical illustrations in textbooks and research papers were camera lucida drawings rather than photomicrographs. The camera lucida is still used as the most common method among neurobiologists for drawing brain structures, although it is recognised to have limitations. "For decades in cellular neuroscience, camera lucida hand drawings have constituted essential illustrations. (...) The limitations of camera lucida can be avoided by the procedure of digital reconstruction". [7] Of particular concern is distortion, and new digital methods are being introduced which can limit or remove this, "computerized techniques result in far fewer errors in data transcription and analysis than the camera lucida procedure". [8] It is also regularly used in biological taxonomy.

See also

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Ryan and Trevor Oakes are identical twin American artists and draftsmen best known for collaborative large scale drawings using a concave gridded easel. They create camera obscura exact drawings using an easel which they devised and built. Their drawings, paintings, and sculptures explore the intersection of art and mathematics.

Veiling glare

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References

  1. Marien, Mary Warner (2015). Photography: A Cultural History, 4th ed. New Jersey: Pearson. p. 7. ISBN   0-205-98894-6.
  2. Wollaston, W.H. ‘Description of the Camera Lucida.’ In Philosophical Magazine 27 (1807):343-47
  3. Wollaston, W.H. ‘An Instrument Whereby Any Person May Draw in Perspective, or May Copy of Reduce Any Print or Drawing.’ British Patent no. 2993 in Pritchard, Andrew (1847), English patents : being a register of all those granted for inventions in the arts, manufactures, chemistry, agriculture, etc., etc., during the first forty-five years of the present century, Whittaker and Co
  4. 1 2 Hammond, John; Austin, Jill (1987). The camera lucida in art and science. Taylor & Francis. p. 16.
  5. NeoLucida Kickstarter
  6. Hockney, David (2006). Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters. Thames and Hudson. ISBN   9780500286388. quoting Wollaston, W. H. (1807). "Description of the camera lucida". A Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, and the Arts.
  7. Mobilizing the base of neuroscience data: the case of neuronal morphologies, Giorgio A. Ascoli, Nature Reviews, Neuroscience, Vol. 7, April 2006, page 319
  8. Distortions induced in neuronal quantification by camera lucida analysis: Comparisons using a semi-automated data acquisition system, T.J. DeVoogd et al, Journal of Neuroscience Methods, Volume 3, Issue 3, February 1981, Pages 285–294