This page and the pages linked to it comprise the most extensive treatment of linear perspective available online, and one of the most comprehensive tutorials available in any textbook currently in print. New edition, revised and expanded 07/2014.
The technique of linear perspective allows artists to simulate or construct the appearance of three dimensional space on a two dimensional surface. It is one of the major innovations of European art, with an extraordinary impact on western visual culture from the 15th to the 19th centuries.
Linear perspective is the artist’s slide rule, an antique technology that has been replaced by film or digital photography, opaque projectors, and computer assisted design and animation software. It lives on primarily in art historical monographs, architectural visualizations and the freewheeling digital mayhem of Grand Theft Auto.
So why bother with it? Because knowledge of perspective greatly enhances your perception and understanding of light and space, and attunes you to spatial recession as the power line of visual design. It is a reliable guide to drawing in all situations, and a fascinating case study of the ways that a painting is shaped by purely conceptual considerations. It is also …