How do I write a perspective essay

The history of perspective drawing

The term perspective is derived from the Latin word perspicere. Translated, this can be seen through or looked through. For many thousands of years perspective has been an important element of representation in art. The first approaches to perspective drawing can already be found in old cave paintings, for example in the 30,000-year-old Franco-Cantabrian images that can be admired in the Chauvet grotto. (Source: Wikipedia)

What is perspective?

Perspective is understood to be the relationship between the distances in a room, as it is perceived from the respective point of view of the observer. Thus, a change in perspective is only possible by changing the position of the observer. If only the section to be viewed is changed, the perspective remains the same. Simply zooming in, as can be found in photography, for example, does not lead to a change of perspective.


An excavator from different perspectives

In art, perspective representation is used to give a two-dimensional surface a spatial impression. For this purpose, it is made possible for the viewer to adapt the representation reduced to two dimensions to the three-dimensional vision by means of a correspondingly converted image.

Book tip - perspective drawing:

Do you want to learn more about perspective drawing? Then you should take a look at my book. It describes the basics of the vanishing point perspective and uses many examples and step-by-step instructions to illustrate the most varied of room situations.

► Draw perspective & space

"Item Perspectiva is a Latin word that means looking through."

With these words Dürer tried to explain the concept of perspective. Similar approaches followed the findings of Leon Battista Alberti, which he manifested in his work "De Pittura" (about the art of painting). Panofsky's definition is very informative: "... We want to speak of a" perspective view of space "in the full sense, where not only individual objects, such as houses or pieces of furniture, are represented in a" foreshortening ", but where the whole picture has [...] transformed into a "window" through which we are supposed to believe we are looking through the space - where the material painting and relief surface is reinterpreted as a mere picture plane, Projected onto the total space, seen through and through and encompassing all individual things - whereby it does not matter whether this projection is determined by the immediate sensory impression or by a more or less "correct" geometric construction. "


Skyscraper in a perspective drawing

The first representation constructed in perspective

In the opinion of many art historians, Filippo Brunelleschi laid the foundation for the further work of other artists with his picture panels made in 1410. Under his influence, Masaccio is said to have created wall frescoes using the perspective method. These can be seen, for example, in the Brancacci Chapel in the Florentine Church of Santa Maria del Carmine. The paintings from 1424 "... were so grandiose, so expressive and subversive in perspective, color, expression and attitude that centuries later the young painters and sculptors (like Michelangelo) made a pilgrimage to the Carmine Church." (Source: Wikipedia)

The miracle of sight

In a nutshell, seeing is a process of processing diverse information that we obtain from light. Some of the sunlight that is reflected from our surroundings falls straight into our eyes. The photons of the light rays are converted into electrical impulses by the photoreceptors of the retina. This information reaches the brain by means of complex processes, where it is transformed into a visual image through further processes. This picture is only an idea of ​​our reality that has been filtered out of the evolutionarily predetermined processing process.

Seeing and perspective

Our world is three-dimensional - our vision is based on a two-dimensional curved retina. This makes it clear - we do not see spatially. To enable us to move around in space, nature uses a trick. She gave us two eyes that enable us to see stereoscopically. This means that we perceive our surroundings from two perspectives at the same time. Our brain finally converts the information passed on by the eye into a three-dimensional image.


How perspective is created in the eye

The two dimensions of an image

As explained, perspective vision is a learned process. Correspondingly, perspective drawing is a thought-out possibility to correspond to our three-dimensional viewing habits on the two-dimensional level of an image. This step developed out of the consideration that seeing is more than a sense that is only used for survival. Paul Valery put this very well with his sentence: "I see myself seeing myself!"

Art was given a new task - the conscious representation of what humans can see. What we take for granted today was a real sensation at the beginning of the renaissance. Up to this point in time, the artists devoted themselves to the creation of images that should be more than the reality seen. Mostly created from religious motifs, images should be mystical, if not magical. A third dimension was not required for this type of presentation. In his essay "From the sense of perspective" (1953) B. Schweitzer formulates this very aptly with the sentence: "Infinite earth and time spaces are filled with an art that is not perspective."


Niche still life with the use of the vanishing point perspective
(Tracing of a painting by Hans Memling approx. 1485)

The perspective in antiquity

Although perspective drawing was not established until the Renaissance, a physical representation of figures and objects can already be found in Greek artists of the early 5th century. In order to give heroes and figures plasticity - everything else was only considered worthy of representation to a limited extent - the artists resorted to an observable shortening of the arms, for example. The superimposition of clothing and legs, for example, can also be seen. An illusion of space, as Panofsky defined it with the term "window view", is not yet to be spoken of here.

The change in the worldview and its effects on art

With the renaissance man experienced a new perspective and with it art. Peter Weibel describes this in his 1990 work "On Perspective as a Constructive Principle" with the words: "A logocentric rationality has defined the (two-dimensional) question of representation (of space) as a rational manner of construction." "Visible vision" moved into the focus of the presentations. The qualitative equal treatment of figure and space led to the idea of ​​a geometrically comprehensible reality and thus to the development of a mathematically justifiable construction process. The first best-known constructed sculpture is probably the Trinity fresco by Masaccio. According to Panofsky, the Lorenzetti brothers used the first vanishing point.


Perspective drawing by Leonardo da Vinci

The move away from perspective

After photography largely took over the task of painting to create a representation of the reality seen, the way was cleared for new artistic ideas. Abstraction conquered the art world. With the birth of L'artpour l'art, the importance of perspective in contemporary art also disappeared.


No use of perspective and space
Replica of the painting "Tirol" by Franz Marc

Nonetheless, a perspective representation is not dispensed with in many styles today. For example, who does not know the confusion of the senses, the pictures of M.C. Escher were able to trigger with us?