Artists have long known, whether by intuition or study, how to direct a viewer’s eye through a painting. It’s always interesting, though, when researchers attempt to codify and study these aspects of vision and perception in scientific experiment.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Vision Lab recently turned their attention to Rembrandt’s incisive and justly famous portrait paintings in an attempt to identify the source of their visual power and appeal, and in the process, the techniques by which he commands your eye and directs it where he will.
It may not come as a surprise to artists who study such techniques that Rembrandt uses value contrasts, “lost and found edges”, and contrasting areas of texture to add interest, and grab and lead the eye; but the UBC researchers found ways to test the efficacy of the techniques by modifying photographs with some of the same characteristics and comparing the response to those and to control photographs without the specified characteristics.
You can read an abstract of their article, Rembrandt’s Textural Agency or the press release, UBC Researcher Decodes Rembrandt’s “Magic”, or download a PDF of the entire article, and see the gist of the techniques collected in a poster.
For a great resource on Rembrandt, see Jonathan Jansen’s Rembrandt van Rijn: Life and Work.
[Via BoingBoing, with a thank you to James Bright of Ottawa]