Viewing-patterns and perspectival painting: An eye-tracking study on the effect of the vanishing point
Linear perspective has long been used to create the illusion of three-dimensional space on the picture plane. One of its central axioms comes from Euclidean geometry and holds that all parallel lines converge in a single vanishing point. Although linear perspective provided the painter with a means to organize the painting, the question is whether the gaze of the beholder is also affected by the underlying structure of linear perspective: for instance, in such a way that the orthogonals leading to the vanishing point also automatically guides the beholder’s gaze. This was researched during a pilot study by means of an eye-tracking experiment at the Lab for Cognitive Research in Art History (CReA) of the University of Vienna. It appears that in some compositions the vanishing point attracts the view of the participant. This effect is more significant when the vanishing point coincides with the central vertical axis of the painting, but is even stronger when the vanishing point also coincides with a major visual feature such as an object or figure. The latter calls into question what exactly attracts the gaze of the viewer, i.e., what comes first: the geometrical construct of the vanishing point or the visual feature?
Copyright (c) 2021 Arthur Crucq
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