Atmospheric Perspective

Atmospheric perspective in art creates the illusion of space in a 2D artwork. This can be applied to 2D artworks to show a convincing sense of space. Atmospheric perspective emphasizes spatial intervals, the distance between objects where as objects recede into the distance, they become less detailed, lower in contrast, and more blurry. Objects in the foreground by contrast are articulated with crisp details and high contrast in order to anchor them in the composition. Using paintings and drawings from contemporary art and art history, concrete examples illustrate how atmospheric perspective is used by artists to achieve the effect of space. Discussion led by Art Prof Clara Lieu.

Video Walkthrough

  • Backgrounds are important, they create a context for figures and objects to exist within.
  • Space is everywhere!
  • Space is challenging because it’s intangible & invisible.
  • In 2D artwork, atmospheric perspective is the illusion of depth moving back into space.
  • Objects closer to the viewer appear more articulate, detailed, and higher in contrast.
  • Objects further back in space are blurrier, lower in contrast and have little detail.
  • Search for “spatial intervals,” the space between objects.
  • Define the space by the spatial intervals you observe.
  • Aim to push parts of the image backwards, and other parts forwards in space.
  • Changing the scale of the same object can effectively show space.
  • Overlapping objects is helpful to convey where objects sit within the space in relation to each other.
  • Atmospheric perspective can also be effective with a flat, graphic style.

Artists mentioned

Books mentioned