Exercise: Research some Classical landscape paintings and also perspective

I am starting this post with the work of a modern artist called Rob Gonsalves who lives in Ontario, Canada.  Rob Gonsalves’ work is what he himself describes as magic realism but he is a landscape painter who uses perspective in ways that the artists of the Renaissance and Baroque periods would find hard to comprehend but is also very reminiscent of the work of M.C. Escher  – he takes the lessons of perspective and twists and turns them so your eyes are drawn in and the painting changes from one thing to another (such as a tree to a building or a ship to an arch in a bridge).   Mr Gonsalves work is that of surrealism but he tries to create an image that you believe is real and conveys a sense of mass and space that creates the illusion of solidity and form whilst remaining fantastical.

I do not have permission to post pictures of his works but he can be seen at http://huckleberryfineart.com/artist/rob-gonsalves/ or http://www.sapergalleries.com/Gonsalves.html and also in my Sketchbook number 3 on page 31.

When the reader of this post either sees his work or knows it before hand you will understand why I choose to mention him first. The way he uses perspective to create a multi-dimensional painting is ‘mind-blowing’ if the lack of technical expression will be excused and the fact that he encourages the imagination of the viewer in such extraordinary ways is the skill of the artist that I personally find so fascinating.

Watching the video on the Saper Galleries website it now makes sense to me to know that he studied and worked in the field of architecture as well as spending a year at art school but his love of drawing goes back to his teenage years.   Mr Gonsalves admits in the video he uses different architectural devices in his drawings and connects him to the classical masters who did the same but in vastly different ways.  The other connection to those artists is the use of light and shadow – he may have more colour pigments available to him than Caravaggio for instance but he still using the contrast to exquisite effect.

Obviously as a surrealist painter is style could not be more different than those of the classical landscape painters of the 15th – 17th century but the difference is the time but the influences so similar – the landscapes, the people, the architecture and now the demand of the art market dictate the artist.

With regards to the history of perspective Leonardo da Vinci in his Treatise on Painting , (in fact the text was disorganized and fragmented and actually compiled by one of his pupils – one Francesco Melzi in around 1540), the term of ‘aerial perspective’ is spoken of for the first time.  Aerial or atmospheric perspective is the technique whereby colours appear lighter the further they area away from the view so the horizon in the distance will be very low in saturation and those in the foreground of the picture very highly saturated.

In addition it was also discovered at the time and Encyclopedia Britannica explains it very simply online happily for me as I fully admit to not being great at science and that  in the atmosphere there are particles of dust and moisture along with other materials and in turn this causes the light to scatter and how much the light scatters depends on the wavelength of the colour of the light.  Blue has the shortest wave length so dark objects in the distance are always tinged with blue as the light is scattered so much whereby the opposite is said of bright objects in the distances as red has a long wavelength and is therefore scattered the least and hence those objects are always tinged with shades of red (the blue light is scattered so is not seen and the red light is predominant).

Until reading about the wavelengths I confess to have not given this much thought!  It is fascinating to actually think about the different effects the atmosphere has on perspective – distant objects have less defined edges and and also much  lighter in colour as well as there being considerably less difference between light and shade. The atmosphere effects our perception of perspective and gives the artist the techniques and tools to be able to portray it in a two-dimensional form on the canvas of choice and in doing so the discovery of these techniques transformed the work of the landscape artist forever.

Going onto linear perspective this I have understood due to once working in an architects office – in essence all parallel lines (orthogonals) converge on in a singular vanishing point but there can be several vanishing points in a composition each with their own series of lines converging and hence giving different linear perspectives for each area or object.

Filippo Brunelleschi is thought to be the artist behind the invention of linear perspective in or around 1415 and hence earlier than the appearance of atmospheric perspective in art.  The invention of linear perspective really started to bring about a revolution in art as it created depth and gave a new realistic imagery but in addition techniques such as foreshortening and anamorphosis,  (whereby an image that is distorted appears normal when viewed from a certain angle or in a curved mirror),  were developed to overcome the limitations.    Many artists became master of linear perspective including Albrect Durer, Masaccio, Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea Mantegna and these artists set the techniques that are used to this day.

What linear perspective did was create the illusion of depth that has previously been seen in art and the vanishing points for all the lines are always on the horizon so thus when Masaccio (the first great painter  of the Renaissance period) mastered these these techniques it meant that for the first time the figures had realistic volume and you became fully aware of the space within the work.

For me this form of perspective is one we take for granted as it is such a part of life – when you look at something as an artist you use the technique to convey distance and space as you try to get across how you view the scene you are creating but atmospheric perspective takes more thinking about the placement and shades of colours and the use of line and contours as you soften them as the distance recedes away from the viewer.

The combination of both forms of perspective were to revolutionize the arts forever – something we take for granted now in the modern world and something which Rob Gonsalves takes on a new journey to play tricks on your mind and your eye.

IMG_5681Finally I wanted to experiment with both types of perspective and had planned on doing two separate drawings until a friend posted a photograph on her Facebook page and gave me kind permission to use it.

Jodi Shorrock’s photograph showed clear atmospheric perspective as the distant hills and mountains are tinged various shades of blue which I emphasized a little more in my watercolour painting.  Linear perspective is also shown by the pier as there are clear lines with vanishing points – I kept the colours very simple so that this form of perspective was clear and definitive.

My sketch may be very simple but it serves the purpose of demonstration and also made me think much more about atmospheric perspective in particular and how it is portrayed in art.


Encyclopedia Britannica (date unknown). Aerial Perspective [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from: http://www.britannica.com/art/aerial-perspective

Encyclopedia Britannica (date unknown). Linear Perspective [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:  http://www.britannica.com/art/linear-perspective

Encyclopedia of Fine Arts (date unknown). Linear Perspective in Painting [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:  http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/painting/linear-perspective.htm

National Gallery (date unknown). Aerial Perspective [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:  https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/glossary/aerial-perspective

Op Art.Co.UK (date unknown). Op Art History Part I: A History of Perspective in Art [online] [Date Accessed: June 2016]. Available from:  http://www.op-art.co.uk/history/perspective/



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