Perspective in Art

Anyone who goes about the process of learning and mastering various art forms has to come across the term ‘perspective’ at some point of time. It is by far the most difficult art-related subject to grasp! No wonder there are all sorts of opinions existing on the term ‘perspective’ as well as myths related to its actual functioning.

What’s the actual meaning of perspective?
Let’s put the art aside for one moment and ponder over the actual dictionary meaning of the word perspective. It originates from the Latin words - ‘per’ meaning ‘through’ and ‘specere’ meaning ‘to look’. So, when these two are combined, the word perspective means ‘to look at’ or ‘to look through’. Nevertheless, its meaning can undergo changes depending on the context in which it is used.

The art-related definition of the term perspective
When it comes to the different art forms, the term perspective is employed for creating an impression of depth. Such emphasis on depth is because it’s an impressive and hard effect to accomplish, especially on a piece of paper which is absolutely flat. The artist attempts to depict a sense of actual depth and space on a medium that has none of it. The typical art-related definition of the term ‘perspective’ suggests that it’s a technique of creating a 3-D image on a 2-D surface.

However, over a period of time, perspective in art forms became less and less about the 3-dimensional form. Artists started obsessing exclusively about the third dimension of depth. So much so that ‘perspective’ started being known as ‘depth perspective’.

The spotlight also came on the perspective art forms which were completely free of flat surfaces. These were related to fields like architecture, interior design, sculpting, stage-set design, landscape design etc.

However, perspective isn’t all about depiction of 3-dimensional images on 2-dimensional surfaces. To understand perspective better we must first appreciate the fact that our viewpoint is nothing but the position that we view different things from. Keeping that in mind, the term perspective simply has the same meaning as the term viewpoint. Quite oddly, such meaning of perspective is mostly used outside of the discipline of art.

When we talk about perspective in art, it doesn’t necessarily imply the viewpoint of a particular artist, in relation to his/her subject. For artists, what matters is the most is how the perspective is perceived by their audience. Hence, an appropriate art definition of the term ‘perspective’ would be the act of creating viewpoints which best communicate the subject/artwork to the audience.

Perspective is all about giving eyes to your art works through which your audience will be able to see it effectively. The placement of the audience may also become equally significant as the subject or artwork’s placement.