Perception in the real world and otherwise
Made by Teddy Lee
Created: October 20th, 2014
Playing with perception happens in both abstract and realistic painting. I visited the Carnegie Museum of art and looked at two paintings, both different eras and styles, but both following the same fundamental principles to lead the viewer to a conclusion sought by the technique. Click on the paintings to go to the CMOA page.
The first painting was a realistic painting by Il Perugino, also known as Pietro di Cristoforo Vannucci and was titled “Saint Augustine with Members of Confraternity of Perugia”. What this painting does extremely effectively is it breaks the rules of perspective in order to focus on Saint Augustine. The painting is well balanced with two of the Confraternity members in white robes and hoods on both sides of Saint Augustine, and the angle that they are positioned at created the perspective lines. What sets Saint Augustine apart is the fact that his head does not line up with the horizon line and in fact the perspective point seems to be right in the middle of his chest. This creates a sense that St. Augustine is larger than life, slightly out of the normal rules. If looked at closely, Saint Augustine would be a giant given how the one point perspective is set up.
Another thing to consider about this painting is the lighting. The sun seems to cast a shadow on the right side (As seen by the viewer) of St. Augustine’s face. This places the right side of Saint Augustine and his surroundings into shadow. When you look at how the perspective is set up, you begin to realize that this is not a fully head on painting. It is painted as if it was a picture taken with a camera slightly to the right of center pointing to the left. This, combined with the lighting creates an ever so slightly darker environment on the right side of the painting. This is interesting because balanced around St. Augustine is both a mountain on the right side in slight shadow contrasted with a lighted castle on the left.
The other painting I looked at was Untitled No. 21 (Second Theme) by Burgoyne Diller. This painting used a grid like format to play with the balance of the picture and to draw your eye to different places. By using the three primary colors as well as black and white, Diller creates an imbalance between both light and dark colors, thick and thin lines, and negative and positive space. The colors are heavily darker to the right, with red and blue and 3 black lines, but the line thicknesses are weighted towards the top. When I sat in front of the painting, I saw my eye drawn to the top left near the yellow stripe where there was light colors and a lot of action.
The difference between these two paintings is the use of technique to draw my eye to different parts of the painting, with the abstract art, the lack of perspective through its non-real world dimensions necessitates the use of balance to draw the eye, while the realistic painting uses slightly off balance as well but also has the extra tool of perspective which makes heavy skewing of balance unnecessary.
Upon Further research I have found some more context for the painting of St. Augustine. St. Augistine was well known for his idea of the Catholic church as a "City of God", separate from the earthly cities. The castle on the left side of the picture that is hit by light and the slightly angled viewpoint give this suggestion that this castle on the hill is a high view of the church. In addition, this was likely painted for a Chapel dedicated to the Confraternity of Perugia, Il Perugino's home town. So the glorification of the confraternity's works through the representation of their good works through their traditional hoods and robes was likely intentional.