IT is much easier to understand and
remember a thing when a reason is given for it, than when we are merely shown how
to do it without being told why it is so done; for in the latter case, instead
of being assisted by reason, our real help in all study, we have to rely upon
memory or our power of imitation, and to do simply as we are told without
thinking about it. The consequence is that at the very first difficulty we are
left to flounder about in the dark, or to remain inactive till the master comes
to our assistance.
Now in this book it is proposed to enlist the reasoning faculty from the very
first: to let one problem grow out of another and to be dependent on the
foregoing, as in geometry, and so to explain each thing we do that there shall
be no doubt in the mind as to the correctness of the proceeding. The student
will thus gain the power of finding out any new problem for himself, and will
therefore acquire a true knowledge of perspective.
George Adolphus Storey
The Necessity of the Study of Perspective to Painters, Sculptors, and
LEONARDO DA VINCI tells us in his celebrated Treatise on Painting that the
young artist should first of all learn perspective, that is to say, he should
first of all learn that he has to depict on a flat surface objects which are in
relief or distant one from the other; for this is the simple art of painting.
Objects appear smaller at a distance than near to us, so by drawing them thus
we give depth to our canvas. The outline of a ball is a mere flat circle, but
with proper shading we make it appear round, and this is the perspective of
light and shade.
‘The next thing to be considered is the effect of the atmosphere and light. If
two figures are in the same coloured dress, and are standing one behind the
other, then they should be of slightly different tone, so as to separate them.
And in like manner, according to the distance of the mountains in a landscape
and the greater or less density of the air, so do we depict space between them,
not only making them smaller in outline, but less distinct.’
Sir Edwin Landseer used to say that in looking at a figure in a picture he
liked to feel that he could walk round it, and this exactly expresses the
impression that the true art of painting should make upon the spectator.
There is another observation of Leonardo’s that it is well I should here
transcribe; he says: ‘Many are desirous of learning to draw, and are very fond
of it, who are notwithstanding void of a proper disposition for it. This may be
known by their want of perseverance; like boys who draw everything in a hurry,
never finishing or shadowing.’ This shows they do not care for their work, and
all instruction is thrown away upon them. At the present time there is too much
of this ‘everything in a hurry’, and beginning in this way leads only to
failure and disappointment. These observations apply equally to perspective as
to drawing and painting.
Unfortunately, this study is too often neglected by our painters, some of them
even complacently confessing their ignorance of it; while the ordinary student
either turns from it with distaste, or only endures going through it with a
view to passing an examination, little thinking of what value it will be to him
in working out his pictures. Whether the manner of teaching perspective is the
cause of this dislike for it, I cannot say; but certainly most of our English
books on the subject are anything but attractive.
All the great masters of painting have also been masters of perspective, for
they knew that without it, it would be impossible to carry out their grand
compositions. In many cases they were even inspired by it in choosing their
subjects. When one looks at those sunny interiors, those corridors and
courtyards by De Hooghe, with their figures far off and near, one feels that
their charm consists greatly in their perspective, as well as in their light
and tone and colour...