“The elements of composition embrace the whole creative process.”
The Art of the Artist – Composition – by Fletcher Martin
The COMPOSITION #4
One way to create a sense of space and depth in a composition is to identify the following areas: Foreground, Middleground and Background. This is a component of perspective that came about in the 15th century. It provided a way for artists to divide the space of the picture plane and bring visual depth into a painting. Not all paintings have this element as part of the composition (as in Composite #4 above).
A few definitions:
- PERSPECTIVE – “a technique of depicting volumes and spatial relationships on a flat surface.“
- PICTURE PLANE – “the plane occupied by the physical surface of the picture.“
- FOREGROUND – “the part of a scene situated towards the front or nearest to the viewer.”
- MIDDLEGROUND – “a standpoint or area midway between extreme or opposing positions, options, or objectives.
- BACKGROUND – “the part of an image represented as being at maximum distance from the frontal plane.”
Tip! Observe master works and see if you can locate these areas
Tip! As things become more distant they also become less defined and more muted in color
Included below are 2 examples of ways this has been used to create a sense of space or distance. I chose a 15th Century painting by Gentile da Fabriano in 1423 because it has limited use of the 3 areas. The painting seems to go from foreground to background with little “middleground” transition. As a result there is a a sense of “flatness”. At the same time the viewer clearly understands the city to be rather far away due to its reduced size on the picture plane.
In this painting “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth painted in 1948 we see a clearer use of foreground, middle ground and background to define space. The scale of the woman in the foreground in relation to the structures in the background helps the viewer understand the distance between. The middle ground is further defined by the tire tracks and shifts in color.