Chenderit talk exposes Rembrandt’s secret tools

Francis O'Neill portrait NNL-170901-172020001
Francis O'Neill portrait NNL-170901-172020001

A former Chenderit art teacher will return to the Michael Heseltine Gallery, Friday January 13, to give an engaging speech into his work uncovering one of the great portrait masters artistic secrets.

Francis O’Neill, who worked at the school between 2003 and 2004, will present his controversial findings into the work, tools and methods of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, the 17th century Dutch painter, printer and draftsman.

Entitled Did the Greatest Ever Portrait Painter Use Optical Aids to Make His Portraits? the presentation will show evidence that the Dutch master used a combination of lenses and flat and concave mirrors to project images onto the canvas to aid with its creation.

The idea of the great masters using optic assistance was first put forward by British artist David Hockney and a physicist Charles Falco in 2000. Initially the art world responded with scepticism and the realism demonstrated in Rembrandt’s work was one reason to doubt the hypothesis.

However Mr O’Neill and independent researcher Sofia Palazzo Corner, published their findings in the Journal of Optics giving five possible set ups that could have been used as a projector type instrument using the technology of the time.

The talk coincides with Mr O’Neill’s exhibition, entitled Seeing Clearly, a collection of his own work including portraits, figures, landscapes during the creation of which inspired him to explore the evidence for Rembrandt’s use of optics.

Mr O’Neill said: “It is the responsibility of every generation to question what they have been taught.

“Progress is often advanced by those who are brave enough to step outside cultural norms and restrictions even though contemporaries often regard those people as heretics or outsiders.

“This pattern can be observed throughout history from the work of scientists like Galileo to that of the 2,500 architects and engineers who cite evidence for controlled demolition on 9/11.”

Both the exhibition which runs until January 20 and the talk, starting at 7.30pm, are free and open to the public.

The gallery is open between 9am and 4pm.