Perspective, from Latin: “perspicere“-to see through- in the graphic arts is an approximate representation, on a flat surface, of an image as it is seen by the eye.
Rays of light travel from the object, through the picture plane, and to the viewer’s eye. This is the basis for graphical perspective.
People in Medieval paintings were citizens of heaven and the artists painting these pictures had never actually seen heaven, the background was left to the imagination and the teachings of the church. Gold backgrounds were very common, as the air in heaven surely must be precious.
When people became more interested in the world around them and the ideas of other people rather than heaven and the teachings of Christ and the saints, landscapes and buildings began to show up in paintings.
The conventional history is based on verbal accounts by Manetti (1480) and Vasari (1550), that it was first analyzed by the architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) and demonstrated to his fellow Florentines in two dramatic peep-shows at some unspecified time between the years 1405 and 1425. In fact, no paintings can be found with accurate one-point construction before the year 1423.
Although largely ignored in perspective histories, the central vanishing point appears to have been first used in 1423 by Masolino da Panicale (1383-c. 1440), and is well-illustrated by his painting from the same period of a double scene of miracles, which has a strong perspective construction. Although the ground plane is rock-strewn earthen floor, almost all the receding horizontals in the buildings around the piazza conform accurately to a single vanishing point.
In the rest of the century following Masolino’s breakthrough, almost all Renaissance artists turned to the use of perspective to enhance their compositions, notably Masaccio, Mantegna, Fra Angelico and Leonardo. The Renaissance use of perspective reached its apogee at around 1500, as represented by the incandescent work of Raphael.
Depth representation, in both its geometric and its more generic forms, has often served as an impetus in artistic development through the millennia. The first historical mentions of art, by Plato and contemporaries in the 5th century BC, were provoked by the dramatic use of perspective in the scenery for the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles.
No examples of Greek perspective paintings survive, but we can perhaps glean a sense of their technique from Roman copies (probably by Greek painters) from the ruins of Pompeii in the first century AD.
The level of ability (which is typical of the era) implies that the Greek and Roman painters could evoke astonishing levels of three-dimensionality in their murals but did so from an intuitive grasp of the convergence concept rather than a fully accurate construction.
Not only in the Roman era, but subsequently in the 14th century, painters such as Cimabue, Giotto and the Lorenzetti brothers were struggling with the concepts of linear perspective.
Geometric analysis reveals that Giotto had implemented the idea of convergent parallels without the use of an accurate vanishing point.
The minor misconvergence is, however, sufficient to document that Giotto did not use a vanishing point in his construction of the ceiling.
Throughout the 15th century, the new tool of linear perspective was employed by artists with verve to enliven their visual story-telling. One of the first known uses of accurate central convergence was by Masolino in 1425, in a picture that tells two separate stories, the healing of the cripple and the raising of Tabitha.
The High-Renaissance emphasis on figural perspective lasted for two centuries, but new impetus in art was given by the appreciation of the two-point, or oblique, perspective construction in the 18th century.
The classical revival was under way, leading to the gothic style that characterized 19th century art.
One example of the style is the view of the Piazza San Marco in Venice by Canaletto, the Professor of Perspective at the Accademia in Venice.
image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piazza_San_Marco
Types of perspective
To evaluate perspective accuracy, we need to have a clear understanding of the rules of perspective:
One-point perspective: a drawing has one-point perspective when it contains only one vanishing point on the horizon line. Any objects that are made up of lines either directly parallel with the viewer’s line of sight or directly perpendicular can be represented with one-point perspective. These parallel lines converge at the vanishing point.
Two-point perspective: a drawing has two-point perspective when it contains two vanishing points on the horizon line. In an illustration, these vanishing points can be placed arbitrarily along the horizon. One point represents one set of parallel lines, the other point represents the other.
Three-point perspective: it’s often used for buildings seen from above (or below). In addition to the two vanishing points from before, one for each wall, there is now one for how the vertical lines of the walls recede. For an object seen from above, this third vanishing point is below the ground.
Four-point perspective: also called infinite-point perspective, is the curvilinear variant of two-point perspective. A four-point perspective image can represent a 360° panorama, and even beyond 360° to depict impossible scenes. It starts off with a horizon line, followed by four equally spaced vanishing points to delineate four vertical lines.
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