The basics of composition can be used when discussing many types of artwork. To truly understand these basics, it is important to understand the associated vocabulary. This lesson covers:
- Picture Plane
- Foreground, Middle Ground, and Background
- Different Viewpoints
1. Picture Plane
Picture plane, or the window to another world, so to speak, is essentially the frame around the picture.
Take a look a the image of the Mona Lisa below. Notice the red line, which shows the picture plane of this painting.
- The invisible plane that corresponds to the surface of the painting, the picture plane is like a window opening out onto another world.
2. Foreground, Middle Ground and Background
The foreground is the part of the picture closest to the viewer. The middle ground is the middle area between the foreground, and the background is the part of the composition most distant from the picture plane.
Take a look at the image below. The foreground in this painting, is Mona Lisa herself. Notice that the middle ground (blue) is in between the foreground and background (green).
Although it’s simple to illustrate, the way in which the artist renders them is very important. This might help determine a sense of openness or space, or a sense of confinement. This image depicts a sense of openness.
- The part of the painting closest to the picture plane, usually corresponding to the bottom of the composition
- The part of the composition between the foreground and the background
- The most distant part of the composition from the picture plane, it is usually shown higher, smaller, and hazier than the foreground.
3. Different Viewpoints
The Mona Lisa is a great example depicting the foreground, middle ground, and background as ascending from the bottom of the painting. This is a very common way of suggesting depth in a 2D work of art. However, this isn’t the only way to render depth of field.
Take a look at the image below. This fresco shows the foreground as the outermost section of the picture plane (purple), with the middle ring in blue depicting the middle ground. The center rectangle is the background.
This arrangement works well because you’d be looking up. The artist is trying to depict a sense of height, rather than the sense of depth, like you saw with the Mona Lisa.
The basics of composition can be used when discussing many types of artwork but are especially useful when describing illusionistic artwork.
The basics of composition, including picture plane, foreground, middle ground and background are important to understand when observing and describing artwork. It is also important to consider different viewpoints, or what the artist is trying to depict, such as sense of depth versus sense of height, when viewing artwork.