In 1436 Alberti finishes the first book describing linear perspective for artists. Immediately , the game of painting illusionary space changes. Artists continue to paint historic themes. They continue to use traditional designs, like the serpentine zig zag. But now, they use them with the principles of linear perspective. My first example shows a Netherlandish painting from 1470. The theme has Jesus carrying his cross; the design relies on the zigzag. There is no use of atmospheric perspective because, Europeans (unlike earlier Chinese artists)have not yet discovered how to use it. Observe how the buildings become progressively smaller even though their edge acuity remains sharp. There is also no application of color perspective just, size reduction over distance. My second example, by Bellotto, comes from the 1700s. Here we have color and atmospheric perspective as well as the use of directional lighting to provide a stronger illusion of architectural space. Note the location of shadows, along one wall of the central road, within the arch and, on the side of the house on the hill. My diagrammed green parallel lines show the perspective recession to a common vanishing point on the eye level. This is single point perspective. By the early 19th century Simon Denis(example 3) and Corot ( example 4)continue to use the zigzag pattern to unite the picture and amplify the feeling of space. But, Corot flattens the zigzag extensively . It engages both sides of the picture plane. He also makes use of light versus dark to build perspective. Dark areas of foliage make the light sides of the buildings appear to pop.
In my step by step examples below I begin by appropriating ideas from all of the previous examples. Linear perspective provides the illusion of space as well as atmospheric perspective, color recession, the zigzag design, diminishing edge acuity, and Corot’s technique of placing darks against lights to make them pop up. Example 4 illustrates the diagonal recessional lines converging to vanishing points on the eye level. Because all the buildings are not parallel I must use a variety of vanishing points but, all are on the same plane and therefore, share the same eye level. In example 5 , I demonstrate how I began this painting. A dark color (composed of ultramarine blue and sanguine red by Charvin) is applied freely with a soft synthetic nylon 4″ flat brush. I can create a sharp edge with this brush. I indicate various planes and shapes by the direction of the brush strokes. I keep the painting loose and atmospheric. In example 7 I used a 4″ and 1″ squeegee to scrape(rub) away different reflecting planes of light from the sides of buildings to the surface of the river. In example 8, I show you the sharper edged and colored version of the painting.
My last examples demonstrate other uses for linear perspective. Example 9 uses linear perspective like Monet did when he painted his water lily works. The Larger shapes appear closer and the smaller shapes are farther way. They all float on a field of blended color which slowly becomes lighter toward the back or top of the image. Example 10 uses linear perspective but, with a three point perspective system. That allows the stepped street to ascend and turn. I take the viewer from a darker foreground into a sunlit area. The transition from dark to light also provokes a sensation of space. Example 11 uses linear perspective but, in a curvilinear sense. I curve the diagonal recessional lines as they recede toward a single vanishing point. To flatten the foreground I cross-hatch short bands of light and dark. But, here the viewer moves from light to dark to light as they sequence into deep space. If you would like to learn more about perspective and creative ways to use it ( for example, making your roads, buildings and fields, climb, turn, and descend) in making your paintings then, I invite you to join me for my one day creative perspective workshop this Saturday February 23rd at the Silvermine School of Art in New Canaan, Ct. from 10 AM to 3 PM. Call the school at 203 966 6668.