Barb I.

Creating the illusion of depth and dimension


Albert Bierstadt, “Kern River, CA”

I was amazed at the landscape paintings by Bierstatd, especially the Yosemite Valley series. However, this picture captures his ability to use detail in the foreground, size in the contrast of the horses and riders with the trees and ultimately the massive cliffs in the background, and value with the darker colors in the foreground.

Georgio De Chirizo, “Mystery of a Street”

The use of lighting/shading and the sharp shadows cast in this painting, in addition to the linear perspective enhanced by the decreasing size of the arches, emphasize the drama and mystery lurking in the upper portion of the painting.

Arnold Bocklin, “The Isle of the Dead”

The color contrast between the dark green trees and the stark white stone draw the viewer onto the island. Lighting and shading also play a role in this illusion. But ultimately, the small boat with the vault has very subtle lines in the water showing it is moving towards the island.

Fra Angelico, “The Annunciation”

This painting demonstrates the use of overlap (with the columns) and transparency (the holy light in gold) to create a sense of depth. The artist also uses size with the larger figures in the foreground and smaller figures portrayed higher and “farther” away.

Domenico Beccafumi, “An Unidentified Scene”

The varying sizes of the people milling about the building provide a sense of depth, as does the placement of the building which is higher and therefore, farther away. The color of the background and sky is lighter and cooler than the foreground.

Max Beckmann, “The Journey on the Fish”

I think this artist relies heavily on overlapping to provide a sense of dimension: the blue fish’s fin, and the arms of the man and woman are all examples of overlapping. He also uses dark lines as shading which adds to the dimensionality of the cloth and body forms.

Anselm Kiefer, “To the Unknown Painter”

When I saw this painting, I thought of chaos, followed closely by a nod to the current political climate in the US… Kiefer uses the placement of the tomb, or mausoleum, in the upper third of the picture to emphasize depth. The foreground also has definite linear perspective provided by the lines leading to the tomb. The colors provide a hard contrast, which to me implies we are watching devastation beyond the tomb.


Jaume Plensa, Globe installation at Cheekwood Botanical Garden, Nashville, TN 2015

The parallel lines of the path lead to the globe, and the silver/white light illuminates the globe against the dark green of the background trees and the shrubs along the path.

Eel River, Logansport, IN, 2015

Linear perspective is displayed in the almost mirror image of sky and river converging on the trestle and tower which are in the distance. The trees on both banks provide a dark contrast adding to the illusion of depth.


Tumbling Blocks (created by a member of the Music City Quilt Guild, Nashville, TN)

This is one of my favorite illusions created with the use of value and complementary colors. There are also “transparent” ribbons created with contrasting threads and free motion quilting.

Libby Lehman: “Drift 3”

 Libby is one of my quilt heroes. Here she uses overlapping in addition to the transparent ribbon technique and complementary colors. This quilt is moving in many directions!

Pat Maixner Margaret, “Morning Glory”

Watercolor quilts have always been a favorite of mine. This landscape piece, done by one of the originators of the art form, uses value, and more value, and more value.  The dark foreground is our “window” looking to the lightest areas (the sky) beyond the mountains. The quilts are made with 2.5” squares of floral fabrics sorted by value and arranged to create the illusion of depth/distance.