MAU Art & Design Glossary

Perspective Drawing (Linear Perspective)


Tōshizuhou (Sen-enkinhou)


Of the many types of perspective, perspective drawing (linear perspective) is the most scientific and organized expression of space. Imagine, for example, that you are standing in the middle of straight road that extends toward the far horizon (HL) and that you draw a picture of the landscape. It is first necessary for your viewpoint to be always fixed in a certain direction, looking toward the end of the road in the distance. Using perspective, the artist draws the two profile lines (A and A’) that depict the edges of the road going into the distance and converging on one point on the horizon (the vanishing point: VP). Electric cables (B) and other things that run parallel to the road also converge on one point, thereby expressing distance. In this example, the picture becomes a flat plane, C, that stands perpendicular to a point on the line connecting the viewpoint to the vanishing point.

In the West, attempts to express three-dimensional space onto a plane (two-dimensional space) have been apparent since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans. In the 15th century, during the Renaissance in Italy, the theory of linear perspective was created by Brunelleschi, an architect active during the period, and codified by Alberti, also an architect and art theorist. The theory is believed to have been perfected by the 17th-century French mathematicians Desargues and Monge. When linear perspective was first discovered, one-point perspective, which has only one vanishing point, was often used. However, one-point perspective can lead to unnatural tendencies in certain situations. In order to correct this, artists developed two-point perspective and three-point perspective, which have two and three vanishing points, respectively. In Japanese, the English word “perspective” is often abbreviated to pāsu.