Teachers Lesson Plans

An Introduction to Pictorial Space

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Piero di Cosimo, Vulcan and Aeolus, circa 1490 and Claude Monet Waterloo Bridge: the Sun in a Fog, 1902

The most distinguishing characteristic of both artists is probably their different view of nature. Piero di Cosimo's work depicts a mythological subject in an earthly place; the artist added several highly detailed animals and insects to the scene. Centring his work around the man on horseback, the artist showed the beginning of a civilization instructed by the gods (to use an anvil and a bellows). Nature is painted in a realistic way for the time, and our attention follows the successive grounds to the distant mountains with the bluish colours of atmospheric perspective. This large space also introduces the notion of time. Like so many progressive steps, the story unfurls from the foreground to the background. The foreground depicts the dawn of mankind with a dozing man; then, behind this scene, come successively the foundation of family and the construction of rudimentary and stone-built houses. The artist summarized mankind by putting together in his painting several milestones of civilization. Claude Monet's intention was entirely different. This artist tried to depict on the canvas the lighting effects he had seen. There is no narrative here, only the bluish reflections of the rising sun. A bridge and two barges could be seen in this London view of the Thames. The artist brilliantly captured the harmony of colours of a fleeting moment.