Does perspective matter?

Whilst I love playing around with the perspective of buildings I am the first to believe that ignoring or distorting perspective unintentionally or otherwise can help produce a significant image. I'm very interested in naive art and many of these artists aren't at all interested in correct perspective as they are conveying their emotions about the scene, their view of the world. Naive artists in days gone by were largely untrained and knew very little about how to create an image using the principles of perspective. Nowadays there are some artists who suspend this knowledge deliberately.

I've been discussing cottages and how to paint them using correct perspective techniques. But let's take a look at an artist who didn't usually apply the principles of perspective. We're going back in time to look at the work of a Cornish painter Alfred Wallis (1855–1942) whose work was introduced to me by Chris O'Brien a new subscriber to my Blog and photographer. Here is one of Chris' Cornish cottages where he has used perspective to enhance his image and give it meaning beyond a pretty country scene. Chris has used perspective to highlight the large rock in the foreground most likely to symbolise the harshness of the cottagers' lives and also perhaps to emphasise stone was the most common building material in this area. The rock is used to lead the viewer into the scene and to provoke the viewer into thinking about the story behind the scene.

And here is a painting by Alfred Wallis of a similar scene. The houses and sheds appear flat and one dimensional. He has painted the houses larger than the sheds because he knows in reality they are but also to emphasise their importance. However, I'm sure Wallis knew that birds aren't as large as horses and other farm animals but here they are nearly as large as the houses. Why? Because to him they are as important. Just as the rock was important to Chris in his photo.
In this next painting, Wallis has turned the principle of perspective on its head-literally. He has turned two houses on their sides to show that they are facing in a different direction. This I would believe is done through lack of knowledge. But he is learning a little about perspective as we see with the house in the lower left corner which has been painted using two point perspective though the surrounding buildings are flat faced.

Here are some more links to the work of Alfred Wallis.

If you are following the Painting a Town videos a new one Day Nine-Adding a Cottage has been uploaded. If you're watching the video imagine how Wallis would have painted these cottages.

Anne Newman

Oil Painter in realistic genre style, predominantly buildings and people. To continue the discussion contact Anne on or phone +61 407 516 522

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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