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What is atmospheric perspective?

Renaissance artists mastered the art of creating a convincing illusion of space using atmospheric perspective. This technique involves painting distant objects with less clarity and a lighter, bluer color, mimicking how we visually experience the world. This approach captures the visual phenomenon rather than the actual object.

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Video transcript

(gentle piano music) - [Beth] The artists of the Renaissance were really interested in creating a convincing illusion of space, and one of the ways they achieved that was by using a technique called atmospheric or aerial perspective. - [Steven] We often think about linear perspective, but for linear perspective, very often you need to have architecture. But for a landscape, you use atmospheric perspective. - [Beth] And atmospheric perspective has two components. One is forms in the distance are represented with less clarity than forms in the foreground. - [Steven] If we look at a distant mountain range we don't have the detail that we have when we look at something that's close to us. And similarly, if we look at a distant mountain range, that mountain range is being seen through more atmosphere, and so it loses the specificity of it's color, and it tends to look lighter and bluer. - [Beth] The artists of the Renaissance are observing the world around them and basing their art on the way that we actually visually experience the world. - [Steven] And it's a interesting distinction. Instead of painting what they know that distant mountain looks like as if they were up close to it, they're painting the visual phenomenon. And there you have it, atmospheric perspective. (gentle piano music)