Kurt Andersen, writing for Vanity Fair:
David Hockney and others have speculated — controversially — that a camera obscura could have helped the Dutch painter Vermeer achieve his photo-realistic effects in the 1600s. But no one understood exactly how such a device might actually have been used to paint masterpieces. An inventor in Texas — the subject of a new documentary by the magicians Penn & Teller — may have solved the riddle.
While not a proof that Vermeer used such technology, it does suggest that some of the paintings from this time were not done totally by hand from the mind of the artist.
They may have used simple lenses and mirrors to get the startling colors and gradations in the pictures. And some of the distortions seen match what is expected if a lens is involved.
But this does not take away form the artistry of the original person. In this approach, the eye of the artists comes from the composition of the room – just as the artwork of photographers comes from their composition.
And it might explain why it took him so long to produce so few paintings. And why almost all of them done from the same angle with the windows in the same position.
Sure makes an interesting story.