This kicks off the first of our weekly posts on various studio art techniques. Learn about the history, skill, and purpose behind art techniques that you might otherwise have overlooked (and then incorporate them into your own repertoire).
According to dictionary.com, ‘anamorphosis’ is 1. A drawing presenting a distorted image that appears in natural form under certain conditions, as when viewed at a raking angle or reflected from a curved mirror; 2. The method of producing such a drawing; 3. The gradual change in form from one type to another during the evolution of a group of organisms; 4. (in certain arthropods) methamorphosis in which body parts or segments are added to those already present.
For the purposes of studio art studies, anamorphoses is an interesting technique, most likely one for intermediate to advanced drawing students, which has the potential to blow one’s mind and amaze one’s eyes. A technique first experimented with by the great Leonardo da Vinci, anamorphic art significantly distorts an image and then reveals the recognizable image from a single vantage point or from its reflection, usually on a cylindrical mirror.
Leonardo’s Eye, a drawing he made in 1485,is the first known anamorphic drawing. Da Vinci sparked a great interest in anamorphic perspective, evident in Renaissance drawings and paintings such as Hans Holbein the Younger’s 1533 oil painting Double Portrait of Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve "The Ambassadors" (at right), which includes a suspicious, oblong 'momento' near the feet of the two men. Artists, like Holbein, who experimented with perspective, made great advances and used the geometry of perspective to perfect the techniques of distorting and stretching images in various ways.
While Leonardo did not include notes with his 1485 eye drawing, he did mention the mechanics of anamorphic drawing in his treatise on painting:
“And if you were to paint this on a wall in front of which you can move freely, the effect would appear out of proportion to you because of the great difference OR and RC (the intervals). This happens because the eye is so close to the wall that the painting appears foreshortened. And if you wished to paint that, however, your perspective would have to be viewed through a single hole.”
--By Holly Sloofman, TSA Studio Arts Intern