Linear perspective is based on the simple notion that objects that are far away appear smaller than objects closer to the viewer. For example, a highway appears to become smaller as it stretches into the distance. Very distant objects can appear as a point.

Artists use linear perspective to create a feeling of depth by using "invisible" lines that converge on a point in the distance called the vanishing point.

Each of the paintings in this learning object use “invisible lines”. Can you spot them?

Linear perspective is based on the simple notion that objects that are far away appear smaller than objects closer to the viewer. For example, a highway appears to become smaller as it stretches into the distance. Very distant objects can appear as a point.

Artists use linear perspective to create a feeling of depth by using "invisible" lines that converge on a point in the distance called the vanishing point.

Each of the paintings in this learning object use “invisible lines”. Can you spot them?


© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved

Golden Gate Bridge

The prospect of bridging San Francisco and Marin County, California--a distance of less than two miles across the San Francisco Bay--had long been considered impossible due to high winds and strong currents. In showing pylons built to anchor steel cables, Ray Strong emphasized the technical challenges engineers faced in building, at that time, the world's largest suspension bridge.

Ray Strong (1905 - )
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service
1934
UNITED STATES
oil on canvas
© Smithsonian American Art Museum


La ofrenda

An aboriginal family is seen here on a river punt on the waters of one of the canals near the city, carrying cempasuchil flowers to decorate their altar to dead family members, and thereby observe the tradition of the Day of the Dead. Through the presence of a baby, a young girl, middle-aged and elderly people, Saturnino Herrán makes reference to the theme of life and death and of the life-cycle, a favourite topic of Symbolist-inclined end of century art.

Saturnino Herrán (1887 - 1918)
Museo Nacional de Arte. INBA. CONACULTA
1913
MEXICO
oil on canvas
© Museo Nacional de Arte. INBA. CONACULTA


Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, Brooklyn, from the series "Changing New York"

In 1921, Berenice Abbott left New York to study sculpture in Paris. There she worked as an assistant to Surrealist photographer Man Ray, and eventually opened her own photography studio. Upon returning to New York in 1929, Abbott was fascinated by how the city had changed. Subsequently, she began documenting the industrial innovations that altered the city skyline. In 1935, the U.S. government's Works Progress Administration sponsored Abbott to continue her photo project.

Berenice Abbott (1898 - 1991)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from General Services Administration through Evander Childs High School
1936
UNITED STATES
gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard
45.70 X 36.60 cm
© Smithsonian American Art Museum


Linear Perspective

Drag the lines over the image. Select the set of lines that demonstrates linear perspective.

Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores; Department of Canadian Heritage; U.S. Department of State
Winnipeg Art Gallery; Canadian Museum of Civilization, Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes Instito Nacional de Bellas Artes, Smithsonian American Art Museum

© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved


1. What three principles of linear perspective do these three paintings teach?
2. Other than perspective, what else are lines used for in a painting?
3. Draw a landscape with linear perspective.
1. What three principles of linear perspective do these three paintings teach?
2. Other than perspective, what else are lines used for in a painting?
3. Draw a landscape with linear perspective.

© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved

Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Understand the principle of linear perspective and how it is used in art
  • Apply linear perspective to the creation of an artistic work

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