Exercise: Research some classical landscape paintings

Landscape became popular as a genre in the seventeenth century, but differed from landscape painting as we know it today in that it tended to be seasoned with references to classical history or mythology. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that  landscape  became  established  as  a  truly  independent  genre.  The  exception  to this  was  the  Netherlands,  where  landscape  had  been  popular  since  the  founding  of the Dutch republic in the seventeenth century. The French  painter Claude  Lorrain,  who trained  and spent most  of his life in Rome,  is widely regarded as the founding father of the classical landscape. See, for example, his  Landscape with the Father of Psyche sacrificing to Apollo. Classical landscape artists like Lorrain made use of both linear and aerial perspective in their work. Do some research into the theory and practice of perspective. (course notes p98)

 

Prior to the discovery of perspective the scale of figures in paintings were based on how important each figure was. Jesus would be depicted much bigger than the saints or angles for example and the picture out appear flat.

Oil painting on canvas, The Father of Psyche sacrificing at the Temple of Apollo by Claude Lorrain (Champagne 1600 ¿ Rome 1682), signed (on staircase on left) and dated: CLAUDIO G. . .LEE FECIT ROMA 166 (last digit illegible; possibly 1662 or 3). A tiny inscription on the left of it is illegible but was recorded in1801 as: IL TEMPIO DI APPOLLO CLAUDIS GILLE INVEN. FECIT ROM. 1665.Temple scene at left, bridge over river at centre, landscape in background. In 1799 Beckford showed artists like Girtin, Constable and J. M. W. Turner the 'Altieri' Claudes at his London house. Turner said 'He was both pleased and unhappy while He viewed it- it seemed to be beyond the power of imitation.'
Oil painting on canvas, The Father of Psyche sacrificing at the Temple of Apollo by Claude Lorrain (Champagne 1600 – Rome 1682), signed (on staircase on left) and dated: CLAUDIO G. . .LEE FECIT ROMA 166 (last digit illegible; possibly 1662 or 3). A tiny inscription on the left of it is illegible but was recorded in1801 as: IL TEMPIO DI APPOLLO CLAUDIS GILLE INVEN. FECIT ROM. 1665.Temple scene at left, bridge over river at centre, landscape in background. In 1799 Beckford showed artists like Girtin, Constable and J. M. W. Turner the ‘Altieri’ Claudes at his London house. Turner said ‘He was both pleased and unhappy while He viewed it- it seemed to be beyond the power of imitation.’

The woman by the trees on the right is much larger than the people by the temple and the bridge in the distance, this is a consequence of linear perspective. As we look into the distance the colours get both bluer and paler. This is known as aerial perspective.

 

 

“This picture shows a king praying that his daughter, Psyche, will find a suitable husband. Unfortunately, Psyche’s beauty, knowledge of whose beauty became widespread throughout the lands, had provoked the jealousy of Venus, who condemned her to marry hideous creatures. Her story was told in the Roman Apuleius’s novel, The Golden Ass Book 4. The painting was made in 1662 for Angelo Albertoni, a Roman nobleman, whose son Gasparo Altieri commissioned a second picture, The Arrival of Aeneas at Pallanteum, which was completed in 1675 as a pendant to Psyche.” (National Trust Collection, 2016)

A google image search Claude Lorrain provided me with a beatiful overview of his work, I espeically like Seaport at sunset (1639), Louvre.

As mentioned in the WHA, linear perspective was invented by Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446). His system, which helped show how objects shrink in size according to their distance from the eye, is now lost but the basic idea is pretty simple for one point perspective.

The artist imagines a horizon line, with a point in the middle of it (the vanishing point). Straight lines radiate out from it to the edges of the canvas. Below the horizon line is the floor and above is not. These lines are then used as a guide to relative sizes of objects within the pictorial space. Items closest to the vanishing point should appear smaller and closer together, and items farthest from the vanishing point should appear larger and farther apart, giving the impression of depth and space in the painting.

 

diagram one
diagram one

Linear pespective is shown very clearly by the composition of this photograph I took at the end of a jetty in Cayman:

According to William M Ivins Jr of the Metropolitan Museum of Art there are three outstanding renaissance texts on perspective, those of Alberti, Viator, and Durer. He details the following from the perspective systems of Alberti and Viator as follows:

 

“In diagrammatic form the two constructions are as shown in figures 1 and 2. B C is the near side of the square to be projected. The vanishing point, A, is anywhere above BC, and as high above it as the observer’s eye is above the plane of the square. The projected right and left sides of the square lie along CA and BA. DA is parallel to BC. In Alberti’s system a perpendicular is erected through B, cutting D A at E. The distance between the points D and E in Alberti’s system, and between the points D and A in Viator’s system, is equal to the distance between the near edge of the square and the observer. In Alberti’s system the projection of the fourth side of the square is determined by where the line DC cuts the perpendicular BE. In Viator’s system it is determined by where the line DC cuts the line BA. It is interesting to note that the point A can be located anywhere along the line D A and does not have to be centered above the points C and B, and that because of this fact the costruzione legittima and the distance construction have an ostensible exact similarity when the lines BA and BE happen to coincide.” (Ivins, W. M. Jr., 1938)

Fig 1, 2 & 3 from (Ivins, W. M. Jr., 1938)
Fig 1, 2 & 3 from (Ivins, W. M. Jr., 1938)

 

Okaay. So that seems confusing! I applied the text to my diagram (I had to redraw it to make the letters fit on) and it made much more sense.

diagram two
diagram two

Leondaro da Vinci picked up the theory (draw in his note book below), understood it reduced it to a form known as the “costruzione legittima” (legitimate construction) that was practical for artists:

Leonardo da Vinci, Alberti's construzione legittima (ca. 1492). Manuscript A, Fol. 42r. Bibliothèque de l'Institut, Paris.
Leonardo da Vinci, Alberti’s construzione legittima (ca. 1492). Manuscript A, Fol. 42r. Bibliothèque de l’Institut, Paris.

As we can see in his Annunciation, he’s used both linear perspective and  aerial perspective.

Leonardo da Vinci, The Annunciation , a bout 1472–6. Oil and temper a on poplar , 100 x 221.5 cm. Florence , Galleria degli Uffizi, 1618
Leonardo da Vinci, The Annunciation , about 1472–6. Oil and tempera on poplar, 100 x 221.5 cm. Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, 1618

Viator’s diagrams make more sense without the text, its a cone of vision that is tilted to see the effect of perspective:

Viator's diagrams from (Ivins, W. M. Jr., 1938)
Viator’s diagrams from (Ivins, W. M. Jr., 1938)
Viator's diagrams from (Ivins, W. M. Jr., 1938)
Viator’s diagrams from (Ivins, W. M. Jr., 1938)

Interestingly William Ivins doesnt think that Dürer actually fully understood these earlier models properly (and he’s not alone in thinking this) which is why he came unstuck a little in his more famous Unterweysnng der Messung (first published in 1525). Here is his famous woodcut on how to draw a lute:

durer

 

Alberti “wrote several books on painting, for with the aid of this art he brought about things unheard of and that the spectators found unbelievable, and he showed these things through a tiny opening that was made in a little closed box …. He called these things ‘demonstrations,’ and they were of such a kind that both artists and laymen questioned whether they saw painted things or natural things themselves.” (Ivins, W. M. Jr., 1938)

This seems like he may have demonstrated his theories with a prop, Ivins goes on to describe a little box device which sounded a lot like what Dürer’s woodcut is depicting above.

Aerial perspective is also known as atmospheric perspective. The colours get fainter and more blue as the distance between the eye (or picture plane in this case) increases. The effect is caused by the effect of the light on the particles in at the atmosphere, more distance means more particles so the scene is fainter and less distinct. The blue effect is all because of the wavelengths of the various colours of light in the spectrum. I see the same thing when I take photographs underwater to a much more exaggerated effect. Red has the longest wavelength and the least energy so is absorbed first (underwater you can expect to have mostly lost the red by about 6m), you then lose the colours one by one in the order of the spectrum (orange next, then yellow etc) until you’re left with blue, the shortest wavelength. In underwater images you can represent depth by showing the blue in the background, for example in this picture of fish taken inside a wreck (the foreground light is artificial from a flashgun):

On dry land, the affect can be seen in these two photos I took in Peru where the mountains behind were a very long way off:


Leonardo demonstrates this beatuifully in the background mountains glimpsed in The Virgin of the Rocks:

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) The Virgin with the Infant Saint John the Baptist adoring the Christ Child accompanied by an Angel ('The Virgin of the Rocks'), about 1491/2-9 and 1506-8 Panels from the S. Francesco Altarpiece, Milan Oil on poplar, thinned and cradled, 189.5 x 120 cm | NG1093 © National Gallery, London
Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519)
The Virgin with the Infant Saint John the Baptist adoring the Christ Child accompanied by an Angel (‘The Virgin of the Rocks’), about 1491/2-9 and 1506-8
Panels from the S. Francesco Altarpiece, Milan
Oil on poplar, thinned and cradled, 189.5 x 120 cm | NG1093
© National Gallery, London

From the air the effect is even more noticeable (aerial, geddit) but I don’t expect Leonardo ever actually went up this high!

Detail from Titian, Diana and Actaeon, 1556-59 © The National Gallery London / The National Galleries of Scotland
Detail from Titian, Diana and Actaeon, 1556-59 © The National Gallery London / The National Galleries of Scotland

Titian shows both aerial and linear pespective in his Diana and Actaeon, painted
1556-9, it shows blusih mountains under the archway in the distance and the post and archway show linear perspective, Actaeon’s arm is foreshortend to enghance this effect:

 

 

 

 

References

Garner, E, A . (2013) Did Albrecht Durer Secretly get it Wrong? A Surprise Discovery in Man Drawing a Lute At: http://www.albrechtdurerblog.com/surprise-discovery-in-man-drawing-a-lute/
(Accessed on 25 Oct 16)

Ivins, W. M. Jr.. (1938) Papers: On the Rationalization of Sight with an Examination of Three Renaissance Texts on Perspective. Vol. 8, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

National Gallery. (2016) Cross-curricular ideas: Mathematics and Renaissance art At: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/learning/teachers-and-schools/picture-in-focus/picture-in-focus-cross-curricular-ideas/cross-curricular-ideas-mathematics-and-renaissance-art
(Accessed on 25 Oct 16)

National Trust Collection. (2016) The Father of Psyche sacrificing at the Temple of Apollo At: http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/515656
(Accessed on 13 Oct 16)

 

 

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