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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Art Perspective

Perspective, in art, a system by which three-dimensional space can be convincingly portrayed on a two-dimensional surface. Art perspective is based on elementary laws of optics, in particular the fact that distant objects appear smaller and less distinct than near objects. Aerial art perspective is the branch that applies to the atmosphere's effect on the appearance of objects, such as the change in color of distant mountains.

Linear art perspective applies to the way objects optically appear to grow smaller as they recede in the distance; the most widely known example of this phenomenon is the illusion of a pair of railroad tracks receding into the distance—the two rails appear to grow smaller and closer together and finally to converge on the horizon.

In art perspective drawing, the flat surface of the painted picture is known as the picture plane; the horizon line is the horizontal “eye-level” line that divides the scene in the distance; and the vanishing point is located on the horizon line where the parallel lines in the scene appear to converge. A scene may have more than one vanishing point, depending on the alignment of the objects in the scene—for example, houses, buildings, roads—as they are perceived by the viewer.

The scientific understanding of art perspective is a relatively recent development in human history, not having been accurately formulated until the Italian Renaissance, in the 15th century. The ancient world knew little of the accurate portrayal of depth in pictures, although a crude three-dimensional illusion was sometimes suggested in frescoed scenes by the device of placing one figure in front of another.

The Romans arrived at a partial understanding of the convergence of parallel lines but never evolved a consistent idea of vanishing points. Around 1400, Italian Renaissance artists developed an intuitive understanding of art perspective, but it remained for the Florentine architect Filippo Brunelleschi to codify the laws of perspective through a series of experiments between 1417 and 1420. The Florentine painters Masaccio and Paolo Uccello were among the first to use Brunelleschi's rules to achieve perspective illusion in paint.

In 1435 the architect Leon Battista Alberti wrote a treatise on painting; originally written in Latin, it was published in Italian in 1436 as Della pittura (On Painting,1966). The work was an explication of Brunelleschi's method and became the basis of all later use of art perspective. Aerial perspective was a development credited to Dutch and Flemish masters. It is notable in the atmospheric landscapes and in the delicately luminous interiors of the paintings of Jan van Eyck.

Anne Ahira
Editor The Best Affiliate Newsletter


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