HISTORY OF PERSPECTIVE

15 January, 2009

Perspective in the art of drawing and painting and in some relief sculpture is a technique that allows us to represent three dimensional objects and space on a flat surface or plane. This surface or planes is the board, paper, canvas, or surface onto which we draw or paint our impression and view of an object or scene. In art, there are a number of ways to use perspective thinking and logic in order to obtain the illusion of depth – some with the use of color and graduated values of black and white and some with accurate drawing of the subject by applying the rules of the geometric system of perspective.

 

Linear Perspective as we know it today is thought to have evolved from the early architectural drawings of two architects, Brunelleschi and Alberti in Florence, Italy in early 1400 AD. Filippo Brunelleschi drew two panels that were pictorial views of Florence in perspective. These panels made an important impact on art theory in the areas of architecture and fine art. Unfortunately, the two original panels are lost. Leone Battista Alberti was a painter, musician and architect in Florence, Italy. He designed some of the most classical buildings of the 15th century. He wrote the very first book on painting that covered both theory and technique, and it had a great influence on the Renaissance artists. His writings covered subjects such as imitation of nature, beauty, perspective and ancient art. An interesting side note is that in 1464, Alberti wrote another work on the subject of sculpture. This writing was another first work in the field and covered human proportions.

 

Alberti combined the rules and techniques of perspective with the theory that painting is an imitation of reality. He saw the picture plane as a window through which the artist sees the visible three-dimensional world. Objects appeared smaller as they receded into the distance, and objects of uniform distance from one another, such as fence posts, appeared to become closer together they receded into distance. Projected imaginary lines that were parallel to the surface plane converged to one point at the horizon. All of the objects in the picture related to the same horizon when viewed from the same viewing or station point. In this method, all objects could be measured in proper geometric proportion to one another. The Italian artists of that day tended to work within this geometric system, while the Flemish artists relied upon their observations and practical experience to accomplish the illusion of depth and space. This is referred to as the empirical method of achieving depth.

 

Leonardo da Vinci is created with general development of the aerial or atmospheric perspective. This method is based upon an observation that contrasts of color and values of dark and light are much greater in objects that are close than in ones that are distant. Atmosphere and light affect the colors of objects in nature. A bluish white effect, created by atmosphere, is noticeable on all colors as they become more distant. Also, lines, edges and contours are more clearly defined in objects that are closer than those more distant. Aerial perspective also observes that distance affects the color of objects and that the same color appears cooler and lighter when placed more distant, and warmer and more intense when close. The use of linear perspective has had a great influence upon the development of art in the western cultures but, in the art of today, it is being cast aside by many who feel that art is more an extended expression of themselves than a mirroring of nature and reality.

 

The knowledge of perspective is invaluable to the serious artists no matter what technique or school of art he or she may prefer. If we know and understand the basic theories of perspective, then we can produce our work in any degree of realism or thoughtful distortion. By knowing perspective, problems of proportions and the relationships of objects one to another that may develop in our drawings are more easily spotted. How often have we said to ourselves, “Something looks wrong in my painting, but I just can’t see to put my fingers on it”. With an understanding of perspective, you will immediately know how to correct a distortion that may appear.

 

What is Perspective?

 

Perspective is a theory of drawing, which allows the artist a way to graphically depict three-dimensional objects on paper or other media, as they exist in space. The rules of perspective are many, but are based on the assumption that a single eye, from a fixed point of view, is looking at the subject being drawn. How each object is viewed in relation to other objects will determine a sense of depth, size relationship and false believability that the artwork is real or familiar to what we see in reality.

 

A three dimensional object is anything that has length, width and height. To avoid listing most everything in the world, a few examples include: a box, a car, an apple, a tree, a building, a person and a book.

 

 

PERSPECTIVE……How Does It Works?

 

Perspective is a method of drawing and painting the illusion of depth onto a flat surface. In order to do this, we must make a number of observations. The forms or objects that we are drawing onto that flat surface actually, in real life, have depth and dimension. As we view and place their shapes and forms onto our drawing surface, we must always try to represent that depth so as to make the objects appear real and true. These forms must appear to extend deeply into the illusion space of our picture in order to create the only true magic in drawing and painting- the appearance of form, depth and the natural play of light-all on flat surface.

 

The foundation of all good painting and drawings, no matter how beautifully shaded and colored, is the correctness of perspective in the drawing of the form and depth of the objects portrayed. In order to make the task of obtaining depth and former easier, we should think about the whole object we are drawing. Do not just look at the front visible surface, but imagine the complete object as the planes of the sides recede. Objects that have depth and breadth have backs and other sides. In order to feel this, we must study the object and draw the feeling of the complete form. If we want to draw a box, we should sketch it as if it were transparent. By drawing this way, we not only understand the box better, but are more likely to draw it correctly in size and shape. We certainly will be able to portray the illusion of depth far easier this way than if we just concentrated on the visible surface.

 

Objects appear very different when viewed from various positions. Because of this, we must establish our viewing point (the position from which we view the subject) and stick with it for the complete picture. When we observe our subject, we see depth and three dimensions. When we draw this subject onto our flat surface as it appears to the eye. We are then DRAWING IN PERSPECTIVE.

 

The first thing to remember is to freehand your drawings as much as possible, but use perspective to check accuracy or to establish a very involved subject. If we rely on perspective too much and omit the freedom sketching by eye, our work will take on a stiff, mechanical appearance. Some tools that are helpful are a T-square, a triangle and a compass. There are also sets of ellipse guides and various degrees of angle, circle guides, ships curves and so forth. These are very expensive, and unless you are planning to go into mechanical and technical illustration. I would suggest sticking with the simple tools. A string and thumbtacks are handy for placing a vanishing point somewhere far out o our picture plan and reach.

 

With a drawing board, a T-square, a triangle, thumbtacks and string as tools, and freehand sketching by eye, we can draw anything we encounter.

 

 

We must draw the objects in proper proportions and distances into the picture, as well as in proper relationship to other objects. The rules of perspective enable us to draw and paint scenes or objects so as to show them as they really appear to the eye. This is all with reference to shape and form, positioning, distance, depth and relationship with all other objects. Also perspective allows us to study and analyze the proportions of areas within a large mass for size and correctness of shape.

 

All of the rules of perspective are easy to understand. There are several basic rules we will study. As we study these rules, apply them to the objects in your home and the things around you everyday. The main observation to consider is that all objects appear to be smaller the farther away they are from your point of viewing. Also, any portions of the object that are farther away appear smaller than the parts that are nearest to our eye. All of the objects appear to be receding to a common line. That line is the Horizon. If we have a number of objects that are the same space apart, such as fence posts, the space between them appears to lessen as the objects become smaller with distance. The farther away an object appears the closer to the horizon an object is, the more distant it appears.


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