Perspective – Concept, types, elements and gender perspective

We explain what perspective is in the visual arts, its types and elements that compose it. Also, what is the gender perspective.

The discovery of perspective was revolutionary in the history of the arts.

What is perspective?

In the world of visual arts and graphic design, it is known as perspective when method of representation of three-dimensional objects and spaces on a two-dimensional plane (like a canvas or paper), in such a way that the effect of three-dimensionality or volume is produced in front of the eye.

This technique is based on the geometric intersection of a specific plane, with a set of straight lines (rays or visuals) that join each point of the represented object with the point from which it is observed (that is, the point of view). This is to say that the perspective operates as a representation of light in the drawn or painted scene, since light rays always move in a straight line.

The discovery of perspective was a revolutionary event in the history of the arts, since neither in ancient times nor during the Middle Ages it was known how to capture distance and depth, but rather that everything was represented in the same plane, without background, with clear contours and no color gradation.

It was during the Gothic period that the first attempts at perspective appeared, based not on the technical but on the religious: the figures of greater divine significance, such as the Virgin Mary or Jesus Christ himself, were represented larger than the rest. This later became known as the theological perspective.

Very later, the Formal study of perspective began during the Florentine Renaissance, when artists such as Andrea Mantegna (ca. 1431-1506), Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455) or Massacio (1401-1428) dedicated themselves to discovering the mathematics behind proportions, establishing the basic principles to reproduce distance.

All those principles that were later perfected by the artistic geniuses of Michelangelo (1475-1564), Raphael (1483-1520) or Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).

Perspective types

perpesctive axonometric types
In perspective, parallel lines can converge at one or more vanishing points.

In general terms, there are two types of perspectives, taking into account the relative position between what is represented and the point of view:

Conical or central perspective. It is the one that represents smaller objects as they move away from the viewer. In this case, the parallel lines of the model converge at a vanishing point, and the visuals form a cone-shaped beam whose vertex is the point of view. It is the kind of perspective that cameras produce and used by artists and architects alike.

Axonometric perspective. It is one in which all the rays are parallel to each other, causing the point of view to be at infinity. The lines of the drawing do not converge in any point of view, nor is the size of objects away from the viewer reduced. It is a perspective with a long tradition in stonework and military engineering, and in turn can be classified into two different sets:

  • Orthogonal perspectives. They are those in which the coordinates of the representation coincide with the real projection of the coordinate axes of the model. This means that perspective is created when we draw all the perpendicular projecting lines of the model, thus obtaining two or more points of view from which it is observed.
  • Oblique perspectives. They are those in which the lines perpendicular to the representation plane have an inclination other than 90 ° (that is, they are oblique), allowing the parallel faces of the plane to be represented on a real scale.

On the other hand, among the orthogonal perspectives we find:

  • Isometric view. The one in which three-dimensional objects are represented by projecting their main orthogonal axes in such a way that they form angles of 120 °, and in which dimensions parallel to these axes are measured on the same scale.
  • Dimetric perspective. Useful for representing volumes, it uses angles of 105 ° and 150 ° to represent the orthogonal axes of three-dimensional objects. It is very common to represent objects longer than they are wide and tall.
  • Trimetric perspective. In this case, the represented object is inclined with respect to the plane of the painting, in such a way that its orthogonal axes respond to angles of 100 °, 120 ° and 140 °.

On the other hand, between oblique perspectives are listed:

  • Knight perspective. It is the one in which the oblique parallel projection is used, that is, in which two dimensions of the volume to be represented (height and width) are represented in their true magnitude, while the third (depth) in a reduction coefficient , which is usually 1: 2, 2: 3, or 3: 4. In addition, the Y and Z axes form a 90 ° angle, while the X usually has a 45 ° (or 135 °) angle to both. In Latin America these proportions may be slightly different (45 ° angle and no reduction).
  • Military perspective or cabinet. In this case, the Z axis is taken as vertical, with the X and Y axes forming an angle of 90 ° to each other, and an angle of 120 ° and 150 ° respectively with the Z axis. It is a hypothetical plane, never achieved in real life, unless the object can be seen from a considerable altitude.

Perspective elements

All perspectives are made up of a series of common elements, which are:

  • Horizon line. An imaginary line that is in front of our eyes, and that especially in paintings is key to spatially locate the content (and the vanishing points). A simple way to define it is as that point where the sea and the sky (or the earth and the sky) meet.
  • Leak points. Located precisely on the horizon line, they are those points towards which the visuals tend, that is, the lines that join our vision with the observed object. In the same representation there may be one, two or three vanishing points, depending on whether it is a lateral, oblique or aerial perspective, respectively.
  • Frame plane. This is the name given to the physical surface on which we paint or draw, that is, the paper or the canvas. Leonardo da Vinci called it “window”.
  • Point of view. It is the imaginary point from which we observe what is represented, and which is determined by how we position ourselves with respect to it. It is necessarily in the same plane as the horizon line, and at the same height as the vanishing point.
  • Land line. It is an imaginary line on which the represented object rests, and which therefore in turn represents the presence of the surface that supports it.

Gender perspective

The term “gender perspective” points to something very different from what has been explained so far in this article. It is a conceptual and / or analytical perspective, rather than a visual perspective, and is characterized by bringing together the methodologies and procedures that serve to study the very ideas of the feminine and the masculine, and the way in which both are at stake within the different areas of human knowledge.

Thus, if we analyze a literary work from a gender perspective, for example, it is likely that we pay special attention to the roles assigned to men and women, as well as to the representations of homosexuality and / or transsexuality. The same can be done with any type of discourse, since it is a “way” of understanding, analogous to the “way” of looking that perspective represents in art.