Assignment #3 - light and shadow
Due Tuesday, February 24 (in class)
CS 99D - The Science of Art
Winter Quarter, 1998
Your third assignment is to write a 3-4 page double-spaced paper on one of the
topics listed in the first two sections below. Alternatively, you may do the
project described in the last section (whether or not you did a project for the
previous assignment). You may also choose another topic or project if you
clear it with me in advance.
The format and rules for this assignment are the same as in the first two.
Those of you who have not yet presented in class must do so this time.
Topics drawn from the required readings and from class discussions
Compare and contrast Leonardo and Minnaert as observers of the optical effects
of nature. How are their goals and methods similar, and how are they
different? Whose observations are more useful for artists, and why?
In Baxandall's essay about Molyneux's problem, Condillac's statue cannot
effectively utilize its sense of sight until also given the sense of touch. Do
you agree with this prediction? If a person were paralyzed from the neck down
and had sight but no touch, what would be their understanding of the world? If
they suddenly regained the use of their body, what difficulties might they
During your upcoming expedition to find the last Amazon tribe that has had no
contact with modern civilization, you wish to bring with you visual depictions
of the inventions, cities, and other wonders of the outside world. Some of
your teammates propose bringing line drawings. Others propose bringing hatched
etchings, oil paintings, photographs, or even scale models. Critically
evaluate each proposal. Which do you think will be most readily understood by
the natives? Do you have other proposals? Feel free to draw for inspiration
on Baxandall's essay about Molyneux's problem, but I want to hear
your thoughts, not his.
Topics involving readings from the bibliography or additional research
In our coverage of the history of chiaroscuro, we neglected to treat the
effects of changes in painting technology, in particular the switch from egg
tempera to oil-based paint in the 15th century and the development of synthetic
pigments in the 18th and 19th centuries. Working from Lamb and Bourriau's
Colour: Art and Science,
the appendicies in Baxandall's
Shadows and Enlightenment,
or other sources, trace this fascinating relationship between technology and
art from the Renaissance through the 19th century.
The recent cleaning of the Sistine Chapel ceiling suggests that
Michelangelo, rather than employing the Renaissance discovery
that shadows should be dark, tending toward black, instead adhered to medieval
tradition, in which shadows were fully saturated with color. If correct, then
this radically changes our view of Michelangelo and his art. If, on the other
hand, we have cleaned away Michelangelo's intended tones, as some critics
claim, then we have ruined his masterpiece forever. Find an account of the
cleaning. (This may require some research.) Then read James Beck's scathing
condemnation of it in
Art Restoration: the Culture, the Business, and the Scandal. Who is
Write on the treatment of light and shadow in a non-Western-European culture.
Some non-writing projects
Create a illustration that convincingly depicts a scene in extremely bright
light, a scene in extremely dim light, or a scene with an extremely wide range
of illumination. Use any media you like, including computer graphics. You are
also welcome to experiment with extreme viewing conditions as described in
Create photographic demonstrations of as many of the optical effects described
in Minnaert's chapters as you can. You may use any kind of camera you wish
(film, polaroid, digital, video), but you must take your own photographs - no
borrowing from books. For more fun, use your photographic talents to document
some of his other chapters.
Heads-up about final projects
It's time to start thinking about your final project. If you plan to work in a
team, start looking for a partner. During the next week, I'll add some more
suggestions to the online list of project ideas. Almost anything goes for this
project, so feel free to invent a project of your own. I'm happy to serve as a
A one-page project proposal will be due on Thursday, February 26.
Copyright © 1998 Marc Levoy
Friday, 20-Feb-1998 15:47:05 CST