Part 4 Project 2 Research point

FORESHORTENING

What is Foreshortening?

In drawing, the term “foreshortening” refers to a method of representing an object in a picture in depth. For example, imagine how a standing man looks in terms of dimensions, seen from the front. Now imagine that this figure has been allowed to fall gently backwards, until stretched lengthways on the ground, with his feet pointing towards you and his head furthest away. If you wish to sketch this figure, the law of linear perspective dictates that, since his head is further away than his feet, you should make it appear smaller, so as to convey the illusion of ‘depth’ in the drawing – i.e. that it is receding away from the viewer into the picture space. Conversely, since the feet are now closer, they should appear larger. Most importantly, the figure’s torso and limbs should be compressed or ‘shortened’ in the sketch, to give effect to the optical illusion that an object appears shorter than it actually is when angled towards the viewer. Foreshortening was first studied during the quattrocento (15th-century) by painters in Florence, and by Francesco Squarcione (1395-1468) in Padua, who then taught the famous Mantua-based Gonzaga court artist Andrea Mantegna

Types: Artistic Foreshortening v Photographic ForeshorteninA sketcher or painter is likely to shorten objects slightly differently from a camera. This is because, while a camera never lies, an artist may not wish to replicate the full brutal effect of foreshortening. Instead, he will often reduce the relative dimensions of the nearer part of the object (in the case of The Lamentation, the feet) so as to make a slightly less aggressive assault on the viewer’s eye and incorporate the truncated image more harmoniously into the overall composition. Indeed, this is exactly what Mantegna did in The Lamentation. He deliberately reduced the size of Jesus’s feet so as not to block our view of the body. Whereas, if a photograph was taken from the same angle, the feet would have been so big that they would have obscured our view of the legs and torso.

 

A sketcher or painter is likely to shorten objects slightly differently from a camera. This is because, while a camera never lies, an artist may not wish to replicate the full brutal effect of foreshortening. Instead, he will often reduce the relative dimensions of the nearer part of the object (in the case of The Lamentation, the feet) so as to make a slightly less aggressive assault on the viewer’s eye and incorporate the truncated image more harmoniously into the overall composition. Indeed, this is exactly what Mantegna did in The Lamentation. He deliberately reduced the size of Jesus’s feet so as not to block our view of the body. Whereas, if a photograph was taken from the same angle, the feet would have been so big that they would have obscured our view of the legs and torso.

 

 

 

The Tate states that

Saint Eulalia exhibited 1885 by John William Waterhouse 1849-1917

John william water house saint eulalia exhibited 1885 tate

The artist records, in varying degrees, the distortion that is seen by the eye when an object or figure is viewed at a distance or at an unusual angle – for example a body viewed from either the feet or the top of the head.

 

 

 

Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Supine Male Nude, Seen Foreshortened

c.1799–1805

A Supine Male Nude, Seen Foreshortened c.1799-1805 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

This drawing was made with the page turned horizontally. Compare the nude studies, presumably made from the same model, on folios 11 recto and 12 recto (D04922, D04924; Turner Bequest LXXXI 21, 23). A figure in an apparently similar pose appears in the rough study on folio 25 verso (D04950; Turner Bequest LXXXI 48), which is possibly an idea for ‘The Death of Adonis’, a subject noted by Turner on folio 27 verso (D04954; Turner Bequest LXXXI 52). However, this drawing of a sharply foreshortened male nude seems to have been used as the basis for a figure in the painting The Destruction of Sodom, which Turner probably showed in his own gallery in 1805 (Tate N00474).1
There are other studies for that painting on folios 14 recto and 15 verso (D04928, D04931; Turner Bequest LXXXI 27, 30); see also under folio 3 recto (D04906; Turner Bequest LXXXI 5). There is a strong resemblance between the pose of this figure and that of one of the dead sons in the 1760 painting by Richard Wilson (1713–1782), The Destruction of the Children of Niobe (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven), which Turner knew well from William Woollett’s famous print of 1761, if not from the original.2 For another example of the possible influence of Wilson’s Niobe on Turner, see folio 36 recto (D04971; Turner Bequest LXXXI 69).
Here are a few other examples I found.
fore 1

Niccolo Mauruzi da Tolentino
at the Battle of San Romano

(Left-hand panel of triptych)
By Paolo Uccello.
Considered to be one of the
Greatest Paintings Ever.

foreshort 3

Lamentation over the dead christ

By Mantegna (Pinacoteca di Brera)
A classic example of foreshortening,
in Early Renaissance painting.

fore 5

Supper at Emmaus
By Caravaggio.
Considered to be one of the
Greatest Paintings Ever.

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