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Movement

by Dr. Asa Mittman
Movement refers to a sense of motion as the eye is guided through a work of art. This can be accomplished by showing figures in motion, or simply through the visual elements.
Akbar on horseback, hunting animals within an enclosure, illustration from the Akbarnama, c. 1590-95, Mughal Empire, India, opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 32.1 x 18.8 cm (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
Akbar on horseback, hunting animals within an enclosure, illustration from the Akbarnama, c. 1590-95, Mughal Empire, India, opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 32.1 x 18.8 cm (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
An Indian illumination — that is, a painting in a hand-made book — from the Akbarnama showing Akbar hunting in an enclosure demonstrates both types. As with the Dürer woodcut, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the rider on his horse charges rapidly from left to right across the image. The smaller animals scatter, darting in all directions and also hunting one another. Their movements create a strong sense of movement throughout the image. However, there are formal elements that intensify this.

Diagonals

Akbar on horseback, hunting animals within an enclosure, illustration from the Akbarnama, c. 1590-95, Mughal Empire, India, opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 32.1 x 18.8 cm (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
Akbar on horseback, hunting animals within an enclosure, illustration from the Akbarnama, c. 1590-95, Mughal Empire, India, opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 32.1 x 18.8 cm (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
Just as the horizontal lines behind the riders in the Dürer woodcut suggested their movement forward, so here, lines and colors help convey the motion of people and animals. There is a strong zigzag that brings us from top to bottom, or bottom to top.
Starting at the top-right corner, the fences form a strong diagonal, accompanied by the slash of green representing a stream. These meet at the left edge, where the momentum then follows Akbar on his large white horse, also emphasized by the line of darker earth that moves in a downward diagonal from the horse’s mouth. This motion then again reverses direction, in a downward diagonal, back to the left edge, which in turn bounces back to the bottom right edge.
Our eyes therefore move throughout the image not only because the figures in it are depicted in motion, but also because of the manipulation of the visual elements.

Want to join the conversation?

  • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
    Knowing where to begin becomes vital to knowing how to read the composition. It's not "centered" anywhere in particular, is it?
    (7 votes)
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  • piceratops tree style avatar for user Alejandro
    Is it necessary to always try to find the intent of the painter? Or is it acceptable for the observer to interpret the painting in their own way?
    (6 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      It is not always necessary to try or to find the intent of the painter. One's own interpretation always has a limited validity. Many painters and artists have left no record of their intent, so finding it out is improbable if not impossible. We merely must hold our personal interpretations in an open hand, aware that they are not immutable.
      (7 votes)
  • duskpin seedling style avatar for user yeyeroso
    I must disagree with Dr Mittman's analysis of the illustration. Although I do see movement originating from the top right corner toward Akbar, and then diagonally down-right from there, the movement is not reversed again. The green arrow drawn second-from-the-bottom facing down-left is unsubtantiated. It cuts through a stream of animals who actually move down-left, which is the same direction of the green streak to the left.

    I would argue that rather than a zigzag, the movement in the painting is down-left aside from the beginning in the top-right.
    (5 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user LUCAS917
    Knowing where to begin becomes vital to knowing how to read the composition.
    It's not ¨centered¨ anywhere in particular, is it?
    (4 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user yalani pagan
    Looking at the image, is there an explanation about the painting
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user awillow8writer3
    Looking at the image, is there an explanation about the painting? Could this be symbolism to animal cruelty, or audience of pupils be prepare for the hunt in the wild?
    (1 vote)
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    • stelly blue style avatar for user sejalx
      from what I know about history, Akhbar the Great was an emperor of the Mughal Empire who was partly known for expanding the empire with his military might, possibly this illumination sort of alludes to that though the subject is of a ceremonial hunt?
      (1 vote)
  • stelly blue style avatar for user AbigailB
    why is it so chaotic
    (1 vote)
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  • starky sapling style avatar for user KurtM
    but why so many arrows
    (0 votes)
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