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What Is Perspective In Art And How Is Perspective Used

Definition Of Perspective In Art

Perspective in art gives special depth to a work.  When used properly with Focus at a focal point in conjunction with convergence the art can gain image like appearance in scale and ratio. 

This grants the ability to draw a three dimensional object on a two dimensional medium.

What Are The Different Kinds Of Perspective Found In Art?

It is generally accepted that there are three different kinds of perspective in art.  These are one point, two point, and three point perspectives.

One Point Perspective

Figurative Art Painting

One point perspective can commonly be found in creatives which give a viewpoint from the front.  It would be much like standing in a room with your back to one wall as you look at the opposing wall.

The lines which create the space will move away from the viewer to a horizon line that is the assumed height of the perspective viewer.  This point is commonly called the eye level view.

These lines will create a convergence in order to create a special 3d perspective and meet at what is called the vanishing point.  A vanishing point in this instance will be at the eye level and at the center point of that horizon line.

Two Point Perspective

The two point perspective is a view of objects from angles.  One could think of this like standing at a room corner within a room.

Landsape Painting

In this process one must remember that vanishing points on any horizon line is a mathematical relationship.  This gives proper scale and ratio to the dimension of the lines creating the space.

With two point perspective the lines which create width of space will move away from each other.  If standing in the corner of a room the left and right walls in your peripheral view move out and away from one another.

The vanishing point on the horizon line will be mathematically off the canvas at distant points, nevertheless both lines will meet at that horizon line or eye level.

Three Point Perspective

Three point perspective is the same as two point perspective with one additional angle or “axis”.  This adds a tilt to either up or down in the horizon line.

An easy way to imagine this is to sit in the corner of a room, or imagine standing on a step ladder while viewing the room from the corner.  The viewpoint has shifted giving an additional axis to the depth.

art outside dining

Where the lines that create width meet off canvas in two point perspective, the same is true for vertical lines which create height or depth.

These vertical lines create a third vanishing point off canvas where they meet to allow proper scale and ratio of objects.  This vanishing point will always be above or below the canvas depending upon the horizon line or eye level view.

When the viewpoint is looking down at the floor as if standing on a ladder the vanishing point is below the canvas.  The vertical lines creating the room will meet at that point.

When the viewpoint is looking up as if sitting in the floor, the vanishing point will be above the canvas.  Remember this is an imaginary mathematical association to create proper scale and ratio in art.

How To Learn Perspective In Art

Digital media creation is the easiest way to learn the proper use of perspective in art.  Software will allow for auto generation of the horizon line and associated vanishing points to that perspective.

The artist can manually adjust the perspective by altering the “handles” which control the associated vertical and horizontal lines.  This will give the ability to shift perspective quickly to many different possible viewpoints.

Are There More Perspectives Than Three Points?

There certainly are more perspectives which can be created in art than by using three points.  A common perspective that many may be familiar with is what camera filters call the fish eye perspective.

This is actually a five point perspective which gives a viewpoint of seeing the surroundings from a sphere or globe.  You could create a six point perspective by adding a grid to this sphere like view.

Art is in no way limited to the generally accepted three point perspective system.  Nevertheless a three point perspective is what we are most accustomed to seeing.

If art is being created within any form of realism it will typically max its perspective at three points.  This is common in many Naturalist works or art that attempts to capture the real world.

Portrait or Figure art will commonly be found using one point of perspective.  Illustration art will commonly use two point perspective within art.

Moving beyond this the art is stepping into more illusion of perspective or abstract art formats.  It is more common to find these additional perspectives added within digital new media art.

History Of Perspective In Art

If you look at art history it is common to find simple perspective used in Egyptian, Byzantine, and Asian arts from the same periods.  It would not be until the 14th century that we find exploration of perspective widely practiced.

The one caveat to this is found within arts which naturally are a three dimensional medium.  Sculptures from the Greek period for example are exceptionally accurate in representation.

artist palet

While these mediums require this three dimensional aspect, why the same principles where not explored widely before the 14th century is unknown.  Artists certainly understood the principles behind the concept.

Filippo Brunelleschi is credited with being the first to experiment with perspective.  He has been called the father of the Italian Renaissance.  While this specific work no longer exists, it was recorded that it used simple linear perspective.

His painting depicted a Baptistry in Florence and was created in 1415.  While Filippo may have been the first it was Masaccio that mastered the use of perspective and is credited with initiating its rise to popularity.

By the 15th century the use of perspective in art was the standard and we find names of great artists such as Leonardo, Botticelli, and Donatello.  With this came a new birth in periods of art that would give way to Romanticism, Naturalism, and the future ideas of Expressionism.

This visual art was no longer held captive to a two dimensional format.  Painting and drawing was able to render a three dimensional view on a two dimensional medium. 

Though the art movements would change Brunelleschi’s system would remain for near five centuries of art as their foundation.  From the Baroque artists to the Neoclassical painters and the Impressionists such as Monet, Brunelleschi had created a way for art to forever be seen in a new way.

The End Of Academic Composition In Perspective Art

It would be Paul Cezanne in the end of the 19th century that would challenge classical perspective in art.  His experimentation allowed for objects to be independent of a single point linear view.

The goal to this experiment was to allow the space in art to create new perspectives despite them at times seeming abstract.  Convergence was created although by relationship from object to object along other geometrical lines.

Cezanne would tilt the balance of the principles of art by using the elements of art in new ways.  This would in turn bring in the 20th century of art seeing artists such as Picasso and the era of Art Deco rise.

These new artists would break away from the traditionalism of many art styles found within the Victorian Era and forever challenge what was accepted academically.

Geometry Became The New Perspective In Art

Realism became a relative thing.  It now existed on a sliding scale where traditional perspective in art existed at one end and many abstract forms resided at the other end.

In between would reside many different arts ranging in style but all used a method to create relationships between objects within the art.

This relationship was more often than not geometrical by design.  This geometry speaks to more than shapes.  It impacted how every day objects could be represented in relationship to one another.

While the more extreme geometrical artists of the Mid 20th century did strictly use geometrical shapes within a monochromatic format, this was not the standard.  Rather focal points and exaggerated perspectives gave more alternatives to how one could see art.

Here is where we begin to see additional points to perspective.  These points through time is what has allowed technology to give us filters on apps that we today know as the fish eye view.

Marketing of products through corporations have also capitalized on these simple concepts.  Their ability to use focal points, color, and exaggerated scale or ratios draw our attention immediately.

What was once considered absurd by traditional academia is now commonplace in our world around us.  As technology continues forward I do expect to see further advances in this same direction.

Virtual reality and augmented reality are two rising formats for art to once again break barriers and extend into new ideas.  The artist is no longer limited to one way of seeing the structure of art.