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    The sloppy Impressionists

  

  



"Rue Montorgueil in Paris, Festival of June 30, 1878," Monet.

The spatial imprecision in Monet’s "Rue Montorgueil in Paris, Festival of June 30, 1878," is more than simple blurring — Monet’s approach reflects the way our peripheral vision works. The spatial imprecision generates a vitality because it is consistent with a single glance, a moment in time.

The flags along Rue Montorgueil look fine when you first glance at the painting, but not if you look directly at them, or after you study the details carefully. This effect is called "illusory conjunction." The painting’s spatial imprecision is not so noticeable at first because our own spatial imprecision allows illusory conjunctions to complete the objects. The explains why we see complete flags in the painting (above right), even though many of them are just a single stroke of paint.



"Madame Henriot," Renoir, 1876.

 



"Woman Ironing," Degas, 1869.

In Monet’s festival above, the low spatial resolution lends vitality to the painting, as if we are glacing all around the scene. In the portaits above, however, the low spatial resolution has a different effect — it focuses our attention. Notice how the face and eyes of the woman are detailed and high contast, but the extremeties and the background are noticeably blurrier.

By keeping the faces more detailed, our gaze is repeatedly drawn back to the women’s eyes. In fact, the painting mimics the resolution of our visual system when we direct our gaze at the subject’s eyes.

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