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3 Tutorials that teach Composition
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Composition

Composition

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will present the basic aspects of composition.

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Tutorial

Exploring the basics of artistic composition.

Source: IMAGE OF MONA LISA PUBLIC DOMAIN //EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/FILE:MONA_LISA,_BY_LEONARDO_DA_VINCI,_FROM_C2RMF_NATURAL_COLOR.JPG; IMAGE OF CEILING FRESCO CREATIVE COMMONS HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/FILE:ANDREA_POZZO_-_APOTEOSE_DE_SANTO_INACIO.JPG

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about composition. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as many times as you feel is necessary. As soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives, or the things that you're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you will be able to identify and define today's key terms, and explain the basics of composition using terms "picture plane," "foreground," "middle ground," and "background." Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson.

First key term is "picture plane," which is the invisible plane that corresponds to the surface of the painting. The picture plane is like a window opening out onto another world. The foreground is the part of the painting closest to the picture plane, usually corresponding to the bottom of the composition.

"Middle ground" is the part of the composition between the foreground and the background. The background is the most distant part of the composition from the picture plane. It is usually shown higher, smaller, and more hazy than the foreground. The big idea for today is that the basics of composition can be used when discussing many types of artwork but are especially useful when describing illusionistic artwork.

So I'm going to return to a classic example-- the Mona Lisa-- to illustrate the basic principles of composition. So we'll begin with the picture plane, which is the window to another world, so to speak. And it's shown here in red. Another way to think of it is the frame of the picture.

Now the foreground is the part of the picture closest to the viewer. And in this case, it's the Mona Lisa herself, which is highlighted here in maroon. The aptly named middle ground is shown in blue and is the middle area between the foreground, which is in maroon, and the background, which is here, highlighted in white. Now although it's simple to illustrate, the way in which the artist renders them is very important in determining a sense of openness or space, as is shown here, or a sense of confinement.

Now the Mona Lisa's a great example depicting the foreground, middle ground, and background as descending from the bottom of the painting upwards. And this is a common way-- and maybe the most common way-- of suggesting depth in a 2D work of art. However, as is shown in this ceiling fresco, that isn't the only way to render depth of field.

This Fresco shows the foreground as the outermost section of the picture plane-- shown here in maroon-- with the middle ring in blue depicting the middle ground. And the center rectangle is the background. Now this arrangement works really well in this example. Because you'd be looking up at this. And the artist is trying to depict a sense of height, rather than a sense of depth, as we saw with the Mona Lisa.

This was a quick lesson today. Let's take a look at our objectives and see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? And can you explain the basics of composition using terms like "picture plane," "foreground," "middle ground," and "background"?

And once again, the big idea for today is that the basics of composition can be used when discussing many types of artwork but are especially useful when describing illusionistic artwork. Well, thank you for joining me today. And I'll see you next time.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Background

    The most distant part of the composition from the picture plane, it is usually shown higher, smaller, and more hazy than the foreground.

  • Middle Ground

    The part of the composition between the foreground and the background.

  • Foreground

    The part of the painting closest to the picture plane, usually corresponding to the bottom of the composition.

  • Picture Plane

    The invisible plane that corresponds to the surface of the painting, the picture plane is like a window opening out onto another world.