Atmospheric Perspective in Art

atmospheric light in art

By studying optics, artists have learnt how to mimic the intricacies of light to create illusions of distance in their art.

what is atmosphere?

Atmosphere refers to a layer of gasses that encapsulate the Earth and contribute to the sustenance of life on our planet. When we look up at the stars at night and they appear to twinkle, it is because we are looking at them through the layers.

atmospheric perspective

Atmospheric perspective  refers to the techniques that artists employ to replicate the effects of distance on the human eye’s ability to distinguish color, form, and detail.

elements of atmospheric perspective in art

distance and saturation

Objects in the distance tend to blend in with the saturation of the atmosphere while the objects in the foreground appear highly saturated due to the closer distance between the viewer and the object.

value and contrast

The further away objects are from the viewer the lighter and “fuzzier” they may appear. This is because the human eye’s ability to make out contrast diminishes over a distance. Objects that are close will be more clearly delineated and distinct from their background.

temperature and perception

When viewing a scene from an atmospheric perspective, it is important to take note that atmospheric temperature also plays a role in influencing the visual output of objects.

lighting and clarity

Objects gain more saturation and color when a strong light passes over them and this can be observed during daylight when the sun passes over buildings at certain hours.

linear vs atmospheric perspective in art

linear perspective

Linear perspective is a technique based on geometry that was perfected during the Renaissance to create the illusion of depth and three-dimensional space on a flat surface.

atmospheric perspective

Atmospheric perspective on the other hand is more centered on how artists can replicate the effect that the atmosphere has on the visual nature and perception of objects under it.

examples of atmospheric perspective in art

Pavilions Among Mountains and Streams (c. 960 – 1279)  Yan Wengui

The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (1503) Leonardo da Vinci 

Landscape with a Calm (1650 – 1651) Nicholas Poussin 

Large Vanitas – Still-Life (1663)  Pieter Boel 

Home of the Desert Rat (1944 – 1945) Maynard Dixon 

House by the Railroad (1925)  Edward Hopper