Assignment #1 - perspective
Due Thursday, January 20 (in class)
CS 99D - The Science of Art
Winter Quarter, 2000
Your first assignment is to write a 3-4 page double-spaced paper on one of the
topics listed in the first section below. Alternatively, you may do one of the
projects listed in the second section. However, if you do a project for this
assignment, you must write a paper for the next one. (I will give you a
similar set of choices for the next two assignments.) You may also choose
another topic if you clear it with me in advance.
Papers must be typed or computer-printed, not handwritten. They will be graded
on effort, content, and style. In writing your paper, I encourage you to make
use of the books listed in the course bibliography (handout #3). I have copies of each of
these books, which I am willing to lend out. I also encourage you to make use
of the Stanford libraries. Finally, I am happy to meet with you, during office
hours or by appointment, to discuss your paper and to offer suggestions for
In addition to the written assignment, a few of you will be asked to briefly
present your ideas in class on the due date. Your presentation is not intended
to be a reading of your paper, but a proper talk. In other words, it should be
lively and should engage the class in discussion.
In the first chapter of The Science of Art, Kemp describes numerous
instances of Renaissance artists who, knowing the rules of perspective,
deviate from these rules. Examples include Masaccio's
Trinity, Mantagna's ceiling in Mantua, and Mantegna's Dead
Crist, which is also mentioned in Solso. What is your opinion on these
deviations? Do you think they are errors or deliberate adjustments? In your
opinion, do they enhance or detract from the work? Defend your position.
Feel free to bring in other examples.
Kemp analyzes Massacio's use of perspective in the Trinity fresco from
both a technical standpoint and a programmatic standpoint - explaining how
Massacio uses perspective to differentiate the mortal and immortal worlds.
Apply Kemp's methods to analyze the use of perspective in a painting not
covered in Kemp or in class. Gardner's book might be a good sourcebook from
which to choose. Consider both technical and programmatic standpoints. I am
not, however, expecting you to make a complete geometric analysis of the
painting's perspectival construction as Kemp does; that would be more suitable
for a final project.
Helmholtz, in his brief but perceptive discussion of perspective on pp. 283-4,
describes several cues that we did not consider in class and that are also not
mentioned by Robert Solso. Confining yourself to perspectival cues, as opposed
to light, shade, or color cues, make a list that combines the cues described by
Helmholtz and by Solso. Arrange these into a multi-level taxonomy in the style
of Solso's figure 7.4. What is the organizing principle of your taxonomy? Can
you think of any additions?
P. Steadman, in a paper reprinted in The Artful Eye, tries to prove
that Vermeer used a camera obscura to generate the nearly perfect
perspectives of his paintings, as many art historians have suspected. Part of
his proof consists of building a physical replica of the room in which many of
Vermeer's paintings are set. Read Steadman's account and make a critical
evaluation of it. (The book is on reserve in the Math/CS library. I can also
lend it to you.) Do you think he is right? Why or why not?
Write a "pamphlet", addressed to your fellow Renaissance artists, telling them
why they should use the newly invented science of linear perspective
in their paintings.
Trace the historical development of projection systems, whether linear
perspective or not, of a non-Western-European culture. This will require some
The making of curved or hybrid 2D-3D dioramas for entertainment and museums has
an interesting history. Diorama-makers employ many tricks we have not
discussed in class to enhance the realism of their illusions. Research the
history of dioramas and write a summary of your findings.
Research and write a paper about a non-planar perspective presentation system.
Examples are Cinerama, Imax and Omnimax movie formats, planetarium domes (those
giant Zeiss projectors), panoramic images and movies on the web (most of these
use the QuickTime VR format), and so on.
Some non-writing projects
Make an accurate perspective drawing of a reasonably complicated
three-dimensional scene. Use a "correct" linear perspective construction
method such as the one presented in class. For this project, you will need to
know key dimensions of your scene in both plan and elevation, so choose your
scene carefully. A furnished but uncluttered bedroom has about the right
amount of complexity. Your submitted drawing should show your station point,
vanishing points if you used them, and all working lines (drawn lightly).
Build and demonstrate in class one of the perspective machines described in
Chapter 4 of Kemp. Choose wisely. An artist's glass (as in figure 330) is too
easy, and I already showed you one in class. Cigoli's machine (figure 351)
might be too hard. I'd love to see a demonstration of the machines in figures
331 or 332. The pantograph in figure 355 also looks interesting. This project
is also listed as a possible final course project. If you tackle it for this
assignment, I would expect less work; if you choose it as your final project,
I would expect more.
Copyright © 2000 Marc Levoy
January 12, 2000 08:36:31 PM