Curator Karen Quinn describes how artist Fitz Henry may have used a mechanical device

From mfaboston-

Curator Karen Quinn describes how artist Fitz Henry may have used a mechanical device to aid him in painting “Coffin’s Beach,” a shore scene from Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Image credits:
Fitz Henry Lane, Sketch of Coffin’s Beach. CAPE ANN MUSEUM, Gloucester, MA


  • This is fascinating! I have never heard the term “camera Licida” for a device we knew
    (in the old days of graphic design) as an “opaque projector”. It was used to project an image (and enlarge or reduce it) for reproduction as a sketch, logo or other. It was another bit of “old technology” like the dated stat camera that found it’s demise in the trash truck…. However – this year, “yard sailing” in Palm Springs I came upon one of these great old items of “history” made by 3M. You know the rest of the story: I bought it! Have not used it – but look at it fondly thinking about the “next step”!


  • I have used a tracer projector to trace a photograph etc. onto a canvas but a camera lucida must allow you to trace a projected image as seen from this camera lense onto a panel or canvas. What a great way to facilitate the painting process! Where can I buy one of these?


    • Alan, there is a fellow in England that makes and sells them. Google either “camera obscura” or “camera lucida”. They looked to be well made modern versions for about $200. He responded quickly to a question that I asked. I decided not to get one as I think that they stifle an artist’s expressiveness; but that is a matter of personal preference.


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