Exploring the Hypothesis

During the past seven years, Hockney's hypothesis has generated violent controversy and endless arguments. In this teaching web site, we have selected and organized those materials so that you can form your own opinion. You will define the issues and use them to examine five paintings.

The previous section describes anomalous features that Hockney saw in various paintings. Those anomalous features are the evidence on which he based his conclusions. The same evidence will form the basis of your conclusions, too. Some of these artists may be unfamiliar to you - Lorenzo Lotto and Caravaggio, for example - and so you will start your analysis by taking an extended look at the work of Caravaggio whose work is central to Hockney's hypothesis. (Caravaggio, largely ignored a century ago, is now admired as a major artist of the 1600s!) With this background, you can proceed.

Now you ask the basic question: What are the issues? You need to clarify the issues before you examine the paintings. Three people will help you with the issues. One is Hockney himself, in his own words. Another is Susan Grundy, the author of the case-study on Caravaggio; and you will extract her view of the issues from her piece on Caravaggio. Finally, you will turn to the writing of James Elkins, an articulate, intelligent art historian and teacher, from the Art Institute of Chicago. That will enable you to identify the issues.

Next you can collect evidence by examining five paintings. It make sense to use familiar paintings. Four you already know - by Lorenzo Lotto, Caravaggio and van Eyck - from the section Hockney's Hypothesis. The fifth painting, by Vermeer, provides special insight, as you will see. Where appropriate, commentary by Falco, Stork and Tyler is included to help you draw your conclusions.

In the section Summary Findings, you consider all your evidence to learn what conclusions your data will allow. Added to this is further wise commentary by the art historian James Elkins.

The Appendix brings together extended writings of Falco, Tyler and Stork. These writings provide some treatment of the paintings considered here.

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