I just watched a Netflix documentary about one of my all time favorite Dutch painters, Vermeer.  I have half listened to the ‘controversy’ about him using a camera obscura.  I never really bought into the controversy because I LOVE photo realism.  I like hyper-realism too.  I think that sort of duplication is a gift to art.  There, I said it.  Anyway, Vermeer and van Leeuwenhoek were working at the same time! Van Leeuwenhoek acted as the executer of Vermeer’s will after the painter died in 1675.

So as the camera obscura was being used by Vermeer, van Leeuwenhoek invents the freaking microscope and sees animalcules (we now know these were microbes or protists).  Optics had a huge moment in Holland at the same time the Dutch were painting like, well, Dutch Masters.  I can’t believe I just learned this.    It’s like science and art had a little Dutch baby!!!

I used the camera to help me in my painting process.  I use it to frame a potential composition.  I use the camera to capture an image.  Doing this  I can look at a composition  while I am away from my studio.  This helps me.  I paint looking at the still life and sometime a photo too.  Most artist use photo references. Why should anyone be bothered that Vermeer did too? van Leeuwenhoek’s drawings of animalcules are wonderful representations.  I fantasize about the two of them having tea together or going out for a beer.  I hope they were good friends.

My best,
Emily Warren
diagram of camera obscuras with image reflected on the top
See caption
replica of  microscope

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