Letter: Ingres' camera?

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Sir: David Hockney helps to refocus attention on drawing but I feel he misses a crucial point ("Did Ingres use a camera?", 25 June).

Perhaps Ingres did use a drawing aid; so too, it has been suggested, may have Holbein. There is no reason to suppose that either artist would not have been capable of producing such exquisite drawings without mechanical help. It is only at the end of the20th century that it seems improbable that such drawings could be made from direct observation. Photography has helped to bring about his decline.

Photography as a reference source can be a valuable tool in the hands of artists who completely reinvent the imagery, but for a representational artists it is destructive to the learning curve. Any sincere representational artist would admit that working with mechanical devices or photography is the easier option. When working from photographs the artist is already presented with a two-dimensional form and many aspects of image-making have already been solved.

It is during the processes of dissecting and recording a three-dimensional image and translating it into two dimensions that the individual stamp of an artist emerges. It seems likely that through this strict practice (and his talent), Ingres was able to produce such a high level of draughtsmanship. More and more, contemporary artists are using artificial methods as aids, and good drawing is truly rare.


Newquay, Cornwall