The problem of proportion in the surrounding us world and the act of reflecting it on a flat surface has been an important issue in art ever since the beginning of humans' existence on Earth. But artists have succeeded thanks to perspective, which was improved over centuries.
As early as in the late paleolithic era perspective of the wings was formed along perspective in rows. It played a role in giving the impression of three-dimensional space and often allowed to evaluate the distance between objects. We are given the impression, that the distance was greater when the object that was partly hidden was slightly moved upwards and smaller when it was situated lower, right behind the object that could be entirely seen.
1. Mural from Almadén cave
When approximately twenty thousand years ago contemporary artists painted on cavewalls groups of people that they remembered from their excursions they subconciously placed the people that they saw further away above the ones that were closer (illustration 1). Prehistorical artists used perspective which we nowadays call perspective in rows.
2. Relief in Ptahhotepa grave in Sakkara
around 2400 BC
It was also used later in ancient Egyptian paintings and was often combined with compositions of strips (illustration 3). The lowest row was used to show things that were nearest, the highest - the things that were furthest away.
3. Rotunda of Bulls
15 - 10 thousand BC
Perspective of the wings also dates from those days. It was used due to the fact that in reality objects that are closeby partly cover the ones placed behind them (illustrtion 3). In this way forms overlapping in a painting give the impression that the one which is shown entirely is closer to the viewer, while the one shown only partly - further away.
Of course today we know that the method was far from being perfect. It is true that it allowed depth to be seen by placing the shapes in certain ways. Still the objects remained flat, not linked with the space surrounding them. Apart from that the painters using this method did not take into consideration the fact that objects as they move further away from the viewer's eyes seem to become smaller and smaller.
LEONARDO DA VINCI
4. The Last Supper
1495 - 1497
The need to make use of this observation only became obvious when art began being used to explore the world. This happened during the Renaissance. Art gained a new perspective, which was called linear or Renaissance perspective (illustration 4). How does this perspective capture the three dimensions on a surface? It appears to be very simple, as linear perspective makes use of an optical illusion, which affects us all the time when we observe the reality around us.
5. Frog prespective and prespective from a bird`s-eye view
Image you are standing on a road, that fades away somewhere far into the horizon. You are seezed with the feeling that the road continues to get thinner and eventually becomes a little dot on the line of the horizon. The same happens with the trees that grow on both sides of the road. How to transfer these observations onto a piece of paper - this can be explained using linear perspective (illustration 6).
6. Linear perspective
Well, it appears that all lines perpendicular to the given view meet at one point on the line of the horizon, which is always at the eye-level of the viewer. From these perpendicular and horizontal lines (the line of horizon and the lines parallel to it) an invisible, but easy to draw net forms. All you must do is simply draw the things that form part of your view between the lines as if they ran towards the horizon. Perpendicular lines cause the things that we draw to become smaller when they are at a longer distance from us. The line of horizon can be placed at any height on the surface of the paper or cloth, but it is important to remember that its position will affect the angle at which the lines of perspective will meet. In case of the line of perspective being placed low - we call it the frog perspective (illustration 5) If it is placed high - it said to be perspective from a bird`s-eye view (illustration 5). It is also possible to select in advance a point where the lines on the horizon will meet (eg. side or diagonal perspective, illustration 7).
7. Side perspective and diagonal perspective
The view of the San Giorgio Maggiore church and the custom house in Venice
To intesify the impression of depth obtained by using linear perspective aerial perspective is also used, which takes into account the changes to which the colours of objects are submitted as they move further away from the person looking at them. On the other hand painting perspective allows upon the expressing of space with the use of the impression that warm colours (eg. yellow, orange, red, brown) bring the painted object nearer, while cold colours (eg. blue) - draw them further away. This idea was believed in for four centuries - in the epochs of baroque, classicism, romanticism and realism (illustration 8).
9. PAUL CÉZANNE
Apples and oranges (fragment)
It wasn't until the nineteenth century that this situation changed. Paul Cézanne, a French painter, introduced a completely different way to show space in a painting. He came to the conclusion that when we look at a view of nature we move our eyes from one fragment to another. Every time our eyes direct in a given way the configuration of perspective changes. Many different perspective sights form, which are impossible to be shown in a painting. According to the rules used Cézanne didn't make use of linear perspective, but started to build space in his paintings in a new way. According to his method he placed plans that ran deeper into the painting parallel to eachother in a similar way as wings in a theatre do. He recognized the plans by their colours and therefore he used painting perspective, which is based on three-dimensional effects of colours (illustration 9).
In this way modified perspective in the wings - improved and enriched with the new knowledge about colour - is of great use to twentieth century art in a slightly different way than in the past thousands of years.