Perspective Painting – Characteristics, Representatives and Evolution

What is Perspective Painting?

Perspective is a technique used in drawing or painting to give an image on a flat surface a sense of depth. An artist uses this ingenious tool to make their images appear more realistic and accurate than how they look in real life. Perspective creates the illusion of depth and distance on an otherwise flat surface.

Perspective painting is developed with the method of graphically representing three-dimensional objects and spatial relationships on a two-dimensional plane or on a plane shallower than the original, for example, in flat relief.

History of Perspective Painting

The first European artist used a perspective that was an individual interpretation of what he saw rather than a fixed mechanical method. At the beginning of the Italian Renaissance, in the 15th century, the mathematical laws of perspective were discovered by the architect Filippo Brunelleschi, who worked out some of the basic principles, including the concept of the vanishing point, which had been known to the Greeks and Romans but had been lost.

These principles were applied in painting by Masaccio (the fresco of the Trinity in Santa Maria Novella, Florence; c. 1427), who in a short period of time gave a completely new approach to painting. A style soon developed that used configurations of architectural exteriors and interiors as backgrounds for religious paintings, which thus acquired the illusion of great spatial depth.

Types of Perspective Painting

There are three basic types of perspective, one-point, two-point and three-point. One-point, two-point and three-point refer to the number of vanishing points that are present when creating the illusion of depth and space. In addition to these, there is also a zero-point perspective.

One-point perspective is the simplest method of drawing perspective. It uses a single vanishing point at the horizon line, the vanishing point is where two or more parallel lines converge on each other at infinity.

Two-point perspective comes into play when a drawing contains two vanishing points arbitrarily positioned along the horizon line. This perspective positions the object where the viewer can look at theobject from one angle and see two sides at once.

Types of Perspective Painting

Characteristics of Perspective Painting

Perceptual methods of representing space and volume, in contrast to conceptual methods, are characteristic of Chinese painting and of most Western paintings since the Renaissance, because they make us see a representation at a given moment and from a fixed position.

Paintings drawn by young and primitive children, many paintings from cultures such as ancient Egypt and Crete, India, Islam and pre-Renaissance Europe, as well as paintings by many modern artists, depict objects and environments independently of each other, as they are known rather than as they are seen, and from directions that best present their most characteristic features.

Many Egyptian and Cretan paintings and drawings, for example, show the head and legs of a figure in profile, while the eye and torso are shown from the front. This system produces not the illusion of depth but the sensation that the objects and their surroundings have been compressed into a shallow space behind the picture plane.

Legacy of this Painting 

Linear perspective dominated Western painting until the late 19th century, when Paul Cézanne flattened the conventional Renaissance pictorial space. The Cubists and other 20th century painters completely abandoned the representation of three-dimensional space and therefore had no need for linear perspective.

Linear perspective plays an important role in presentations of ideas for works by architects, engineers, landscape architects and industrial designers, providing an opportunity to see the finished product before it is started. Unlike linear perspective and used by both Chinese and European painters, aerial perspective is a method of creating the illusion of depth through a modulation of color and tone.

Main Representatives of this Painting

In the 15th century some of the leading artists and architects developed geometric schemes of perspective. Geometric perspective is a method of drawing by which it is possible to represent a three-dimensional form as a two-dimensional image that closely resembles the scene visualized by the human eye.

The camera produces photographs with equal resemblance, such images produced by the eye, camera and perspective systems can be interpreted in terms of what is known as central projection.

Perspective painting was invented in Florence at the beginning of the Quattrocento, at a time when some artists wanted to make representations more in keeping with human vision.

Although it was already practiced intuitively, Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) proposed a theory about it in his work De Pictura (On Painting) in 1436. He recommended that a painter should be educated, as far as possible, in all the liberal arts, but above all that he should be well versed in geometry, combining art and science to master appearances.