Picture plane  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A picture plane is the imaginary flat surface which is usually located between the station point and the object being viewed and is ordinarily a vertical plane perpendicular to the horizontal projection of the line of sight to the object's order of interest.


Picture plane

In painting the picture plane refers to the flat surface of the canvas or the physical material onto which the paint is applied. It generally refers to the front of the surface image, especially in the case of illusionary depth, although it can also refer to the picture's ground. The illusion of depth and three dimensionality that accompanies certain types of pictures is described as penetrating the picture plane.

In photography the physical surface of a print can be thought of as the manifestation of its picture plane. The position of the camera at the time of image capture is the station point, and the edges of the camera's field of view create the imaginary borders of the picture plane, finally translating to the physical edges of a photographic print.

Integrity of the picture plane

A well-known phrase has accompanied many discussions of painting during the period of modernism. Coined by the influential art critic Clement Greenberg in his essay called "Modernist Painting", the phrase "integrity of the picture plane" has come to denote how the flat surface of the physical painting functions in older as opposed to more recent works. That phrase is found in the following sentence in his essay:

"The Old Masters had sensed that it was necessary to preserve what is called the integrity of the picture plane: that is, to signify the enduring presence of flatness underneath and above the most vivid illusion of three-dimensional space."

Greenberg seems to be referring to the way painting relates to the picture plane in both the modern period and the "Old Master" period.

Pictorial space in Van Gogh's Girl in White

In Girl in White, Van Gogh uses the "picture plane" for dramatic effect. Charles Townsend Harrison explains, "how painters use the 'picture plane' is a telling measure of the usually intended effects of their work and their disposition toward the spectator." Having the woman fill most of the pictorial space, she appears closer to the audience. Van Gogh further shadowed her face and gave her a "distant, unfocused" gaze. By also having the woman in close proximity, her emotional distance is "poignant". (Painting the Difference: Sex and Spectator in Modern Art)

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Picture plane" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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