Assignment #1 - perspective
Due Thursday, January 22 (in class)
CS 99D - The Science of Art
Winter Quarter, 1998
Your first assignment is to write a 3-4 page double-spaced paper on one of the
topics listed in the first three sections below. Alternatively, you may do one
of the projects listed in the last section. However, if you do a project for
this assignment, you must write a paper for the next one. (I envision giving
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 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 #2), even for topics in the first section. In addition to the items
on reserve in the library, I have copies of each of these books, which I might
be willing to lend out. I am also 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 (among those who choose to
write papers) 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
Topics drawn from the required readings and from class discussions
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, 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?
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. Don't forget to talk about the ways in which perspective can be
used to enrich the dramatic power and the story-telling ability of a painting.
Feel free to use insights you have gained from the art of more recent times,
but don't give them culture shock.
Topics involving readings from the bibliography
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. Do you think he is right? Why or why not?
J.V. Field, in a chapter in The Invention of Infinity, tries to decide
if Masaccio knew how to construct a "correct" perspective view when he
painted his famous trompe l'oeil chapel in Santa Maria Novella in Florence. As
part of his analysis, he attempts to build a 3D virtual model of the imaginary
chapel. Read Field's account. Is he right about the errors in the painting?
Did Masaccio know what he was doing? Defend your opinion.
Topics that may require additional research
Trace the historical development of projection systems, whether linear
perspective or not, of a non-Western-European culture.
Analyze the use of perspective in the works of an artist we have not covered in
class. Consider both technical and programmatic aspects of their use of
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.
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 dorm room has about the right
amount of complexity.
Write a step-by-step Web tutorial suitable for teaching Stanford art students
how to draw objects in correct perspective. Concentrate on
architectural objects if you like. See me for some sample handbooks of
Copyright © 1998 Marc Levoy
Friday, 20-Feb-1998 15:47:05 CST