Atmospheric perspective

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Atmospheric perspective

From Juan Carlos Martinez

Published before 2005


Mark Junge wrote:
The one rule that comes from this is that objects in the distance appear differently than those in the foreground. The colors of far-off features may not necessarily be bluish - it depends on whether or not the sun is shining, how far away the items are and the humidity. But distant mountains, trees, whatever, are certainly softer (i.e., less intense in hue), lower in contrast and may take on the colors of the sky, whether it's blue, gray or golden orange.

Mark,

Yes, I think that is the key to that statement, as well as to the visual phenomenon it is based upon. The background seems to take on more and more of the colour of the “sky” (atmospheric and light conditions) at that time and place, as it recedes. And, the “sky” is not always blue. Warmer, yellower in the mornings, pinker/redder in evening, whiter sometimes, browner other times, etc.. Depends on time, place, and weather and, in a painting, the artist’s intent. But as long as the background colours suit the sky in any given painting, then it will appear to recede better into the distance. This is my understanding of the concept of “adding sky colour” to the background elements, as I’ve always know it.

There are other guidelines for atmospheric, or aerial, perspective, but this is one of them (contrast—less; detail—less; colour temperature—higher; and chroma—lower, being the others). Of course, these are subject to being “broken”, too, as can be seen in many American Luminist paintings, for example.

Juan