Of course they do. But how and how much is the real question.
Most of us are familiar with the camera obscura used by some of the great painters in the 1700s and indeed much earlier. Even Leonardo da Vinci experimented with this technology.There are three videos by the artist David Hockney on Youtube showing how the Great Masters probably used the camera obscura to achieve such accurate perspective and intricate details of such materials as lace. In fact it is thought by some art experts that the masterpiece "Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer was created with the aid of such a camera.
If you’re interested in the workings of such a devise refer to this in-depth article on Wikipedia
But does the use of boxes with pin holes, lenses and mirrors take from the astounding talent these painters had? Do you value their work less knowing it was probably aided in some way?
While you're pondering this question, it is possible that Michelangelo didn't paint all the Sistine Chapel ceiling without help. To dispel one myth - he didn't paint the ceiling lying on his back. He had a curved scaffold constructed that followed the curvature of the ceiling's vault but did have to lean backwards and paint overhead. Not easy. In the beginning he had a team of well known local artists, especially to help him with the preparation of the frescoes (he had never painted one before being a sculptor not a painter). He quickly fell out with them and had to rely on his assistants who according to some opinions not only mixed the paint but were allowed to paint areas that weren't considered to be important and some of the smaller figures. Somehow I don't think any of this distracts from probably the most remarkable piece of painting the world has even seen.
While were're talking Michelangelo I must give a plug for Victorians to visit Bairnsdale to view our very own "Michelangelo" of Gippsland (Francesco Floreani) who painted the ceiling of St Mary's Catholic Church in a "similar" style in the 1930s.
But what do modern artists do with all the technology available? There are all sorts of projectors available for imposing an image onto a canvas allowing the painter to copy the exact outline. I have one which I use if I’m painting a portrait (certainly not my forte) such as the one of Harry, to get the correct facial proportions. Of course you still have to paint the subject and the yachts!!!
But I didn't cheat when I painted Muse which was painted using a life model at a Matisse workshop.
I was happy with both paintings and certainly using the projector to get Harry's face correct didn't, in my mind, constitute cheating.
Tomorrow's Blog is going to be about copying- an essential skill to learn if you want to paint. And you will meet Judy and Bertie Bones!