+
3 Tutorials that teach Perspective!
Take your pick:
Perspective!

Perspective!

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will explore some of the approaches to perspective that artists use in order to depict the illusion of depth in two-dimensional works of art.

(more)
See More

Try Sophia’s Art History Course. For Free.

Our self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

25 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

221 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 20 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.

Tutorial

Exploring how artists depict the illusion of depth in 2D compositions.

Source: Image of Annunciation Public Domain http://uploads7.wikipaintings.org/images/ melchior-broederlam/the-annunciation-from-altar-of-philip-the-bold-1399.jpg! HalfHD.jpg; Image of Keys Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ File:Perugino_Keys.jpg; Image of School of Athens http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ File:Sanzio_01.jpg, Image of Last Supper Public Domainhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ File:%C3%9Altima_Cena_-_Da_Vinci_5.jpg; Image of Landscape Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dai_Jin- Landscape_in_the_Style_of_Yan_Wengui.jpg

Video Transcription

Download PDF

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 perspective and how it's used by artists in a composition. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as many times as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin. Today's objectives, or the things 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, explain how artists use elements of perspective to give the illusion of three dimensions. The big idea for today is that linear and atmospheric perspective are methods of depicting the illusion of three dimensions in a two dimensional composition.

The key terms for today, as always, are listed in yellow. The first key term is linear perspective, a form of perspective in which the lines of man made objects, like roads and buildings, are at right angles to the picture plane and converge toward a vanishing point. Atmospheric perspective is a form of perspective in which more distant objects are depicted in grayish or bluish haze. Scale means size relative to another object. Scale can be used to depict distance in two dimensions. The more distant object is smaller in scale. Overlapping is a technique used to depict space in 2-D artworks, in which the closer object covers up or overlaps the more distant object.

Positioning is a technique used to depict the illusion of distance in 2-D artworks. The more distant object is shown through positioning over on a diagonal with the closer object. Even though both appear the same size, the eye reads the object that is positioned higher as more distant. Vanishing point is the point on the horizon where the straight lines of linear perspective converge. The two sides of a road appear to come together at the vanishing point.

So let's look at pre-Renaissance attempts at realistic perspective. Now linear perspective wasn't really clearly defined, at least mathematically, until the early part of the 15th century by the Italian artist and architect, Brunelleschi, who, by the way, designed the dome of the Florence Cathedral. Now that doesn't mean that there weren't a few artists who nailed it before this, but the majority of the attempts weren't perfect.

And why do we care? Well, perspective in general was explored and attempted with a great range of success. But I chose this first example on the right, which is a late Gothic annunciation painting from 1399, roughly 10 years or so before Brunelleschi's work with linear perspective. And I chose it because it contains other methods of depicting perspective used by artists. So what elements of perspective do you see?

Well, there's overlapping, where the image in front suggests closer proximity to the viewer. There's the scaling of elements, where elements that are further away should be smaller than elements closer to the viewer. Now there's positioning, where images that are higher tend to suggest that they exist further into the picture plane. And a good example of diagonal positioning is where the red angel in lower left hand corner is closer to the viewer, where the Virgin Mary in blue, is on, if you follow a diagonal up from the red angel, her positioning suggests that she is further back in the painting. Now the attempts at accurate linear perspective are evident. But something about isn't quite right, as the brain quickly identifies when something appears unnatural.

But by comparison, look at this fresco by the Italian artist, Perugino, from the late 15th century. And you can see how refined the application of linear perspective had become. Furthermore, this Fresco, titled "The School of Athens" by a student of Perugino, the famous High Renaissance artist, Raphael, is considered one of the most important works of art from the Italian Renaissance and is another fantastic example of an artist exhibiting their mastery of perspective.

Now with linear perspective, the lines of man made objects in the painting exist as right angles to the picture plane and converge into an imaginary spot in the painting called the vanishing point. Now in da Vinci's "Last Supper," notice how all the lines of perspective converge on a vanishing point that corresponds to Christ's head right there. Now this was designed intentionally to sort of subconsciously draw the viewer's focus to the figure of Christ, who was the most important figure in the composition. So you can use perspective as a way of drawing the viewer's attention to certain points in the painting.

Now up to this point, I've been showing only European art and artists and their work with perspective. But this wasn't a concept limited only to Western art alone. The ink drawing on the right is a landscape drawing, or right dead center, I should say, drawing by the 14th century Chinese artist, Dai Jin. Now notice how he uses atmospheric perspective, which is the gradual fading of objects in the background to suggest depth. Pretty cool.

All right, well that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives again to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you explain how artists use elements of perspective to give the illusion of three dimensions? Once again, our big idea for today is that linear and atmospheric perspective are methods of depicting the illusion of three dimensions in a two dimensional composition. And that's it for today. Thank you for joining me. And I'll see you next time.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Positioning

    A technique used to depict the illusion of distance in 2-D artworks. The more distant object is shown through positioning over or on a diagonal with the closer object. Even though both may appear the same size, the eye reads the object that is positioned higher as more distant.

  • Atmospheric Perspective

    A form of perspective in which the more distant objects are depicted in a greyish or bluish haze.

  • Overlapping

    A technique used to depict space in 2-D artworks in which the closer object covers up, or overlaps, the more distant object.

  • Scale

    Size relative to another object. Scale can be used to depict distance in two dimensions - the more distant object is smaller in scale.

  • Linear Perspective

    A form of perspective in which the lines of manmade objects (roads, buildings) are at right angles to the picture plane and converge toward a vanishing point.

  • Vanishing Point

    The point on the horizon where the straight lines of linear perspective converge. The two sides of a road appear to come together at the vanishing point.