Notebook, 1993-

MATERIALS & METHODS - Drawing - Printing

Camera Obscura - Camera Lucida

Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura (Latin: 'dark chamber') - An apparatus which projects the image of an object or scene on to a sheet of paper or ground glass so that the outlines can be traced. It consists of a shuttered box or room with a small hole or lens in one side through which light from a brightly lit scene enters and forms an inverted image on a screen placed opposite the opening. The optical principle is essentially that of the photographic camera. For greater convenience a mirror is usually installed, which reflects the image the right way up on to a suitably placed drawing surface. The principle was known as early as Aristotle and medieval astronomers found the device helpful in observing solar eclipses. Vasari refers to an invention of Alberti's which sounds like the earliest camera obscura as an instrument for drawing, but the first written account of its use for drawing must be ascribed to Giambattista della Porta, a physician of Naples. His description in his work on popular science, Magiae Naturalis (1558), did much to make the device widely known. In 1679 the architect and scientist Robert Hooke (1635-1703) built a transportable apparatus for landscape painters and by the 18th cent. the camera obscura had become a craze. Both amateurs and professionals--such as Canaletto (1697-1768, Venetian painter)--were using it for topographical painting, and we hear of an apparatus, somewhat like a sedan chair, inside which the artist could sit and draw, at the same time actuating bellows with his feet to improve the ventilation. More modest versions were easily portable and even pocketable.

[Chilvers, Ian, Harold Osborne, and Dennis Farr, eds. Oxford Dictionary Of Art. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.]



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