Stork – Incorrect FAQ

On April 7, 2008 I copied the paragraph in red in its entirety from David Stork’s recently-updated web page. I’ve marked the five claims he makes about the Hockney-Falco Thesis in this paragraph, and address each of them below:

[1]Now that the unanimous independent review in the scholarly literature [2]and of a four-day symposium devoted to testing Hockney’s tracing theory for the early Renaissance (1430–1550)—from scientists, historians of art and optics, and a curator—have rejected the claims (or at best found the claims unproven), [3]that every challenge to the data and methods of several rebutters have been rejected by independent experts from several institutions, [4]that no scholarly papers have questioned these rebuttals, [5]and that Mr. Hockney himself seems to have abandoned the tracing theory (feeling that artists merely saw and were influenced by projectedc images), after eight years it is time to move on to more productive areas of computer vision in the visual arts. Nevertheless, readers interested in the tracing theory can read more here.

[1] Contrary to what Stork states about the “unanimous” rejection of our claims, over half the approximately 20 books and academic articles through early 2008 of which I am aware either partially or totally support our findings. I give a list of these books and articles elsewhere (at the bottom of the section). Three other recent examples are that I presented the ‘2008 Ziegfeld Lecture’ at the annual meeting of the National Art Education Association, awarded for my role in developing the Hockney-Falco Thesis, have been invited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to present a public lecture on our work as part of the World Science Festival (May 28–June 1, 2008), and along with David Hockney will be a “Guest of Honor” at a conference of art historians in Italy exploring Caravaggio’s possible use of optics (September 8–10, 2008). Given these easily-verifiable facts about the scholarly acceptance of our Thesis, the disconnect between what Stork writes about its “unanimous rejection,” and the reality of the situation, is truly bizarre.

[2] As I show on another page, although there were 25 speakers at the four-day symposium held back in 2003, eight people were asked by one of the organizers to write papers for a journal. Of those, one had not even attended the workshop, and thus did not hear any of the 25 talks, and another dealt only with the specific case of Vermeer, not with our Thesis. The opinions of the six—only one-quarter of the workshop attendees—who addressed aspects of our Thesis ranged from slightly positive, to definitely negative for the period prior to 1550, the date of the earliest currently-known written reference. However, the editor writes about the use of optics after 1550 that “Forcing historians of science to come to grips with the transformation that optics underwent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries… [is] research opened up by the Hockney-Falco thesis.” Stork misrepresents the outcome of that workshop as “unanimous”; incorrectly states that the workshop addressed the “tracing theory” only for the limited period “1430–1550;”† fails to mention the broad acceptance of our claims for the post-1500 period; and completely ignores the existence of the roughly dozen other positive books and academic articles about our Thesis that have been published to date.

† That the workshop was not “devoted” only to “the early Renaissance (1430–1550)” as Stork incorrectly claims is clear from the title on the front cover of the journal: “Optics, Instruments and Painting, 1420–1720: Reflections on the Hockney-Falco Thesis” (special issue of Early Science and Medicine, vol. X, no. 2, 2005, edited by Sven Dupré)

[3] The “independent experts from several institutions” that David Stork refers to happen to be David Stork and Marco Duarte. Although Duarte lists his address as Rice University on the papers he co-authored with Stork, he is a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering who did his work as Stork’s summer intern at Ricoh Innovations.

[4] This is incorrect. In an article written at the request of an editor of IEEE MultiMedia, I addressed the errors in data and methods in three papers that Stork published in that journal. Unfortunately, even in the most egregious cases, editors of scientific journals do not retract articles without the unanimous consent of the authors, so readers will have to evaluate for themselves the validity of Stork’s papers in the context of the false claims in the above paragraph and systematic errors in the papers that are detailed elsewhere.

[5] David Hockney certainly has not in any way “abandoned the tracing theory.” As I write in the Introduction section of my main FAQ, once we had made the visual and scientific case for the direct use of optical projections (i.e. after we had provided ample evidence for “the tracing theory”), David Hockney became increasingly interested in expanding beyond it to the indirect use of optics by artists as well. That is, based on his practice-based experience as an artist, he felt that having seen 3-dimensional scenes projected onto 2-dimensional surfaces would have strongly influenced artists even when those particular artists did not directly use projections for a particular painting.

All of the facts I give in [1]–[5] above are easily verifiable, and all contradict the claims Stork has made on his web page as recently as spring 2008. There is a total disconnect between Stork’s claims about the Hockney-Falco Thesis, and the reality of the situation. I show elsewhere there are problems as well with the data and assumptions in Stork’s papers on this topic.


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