17 July 1998 Eye placement principles in portraits and figure studies over the past two millennia
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The importance of the center of the canvas has long been appreciated in art, as has the way the eyes as revealing the personality of the subjects of portraits. Is there a consistent placement of the eyes relative to the canvas frame, based on the horizontal position of the eyes in portraits? Data from portraits over the past 2000 years quantify that one eye is centered with a standard deviation of less than +/- 5%. Classical texts on composition do not seem to mention the idea that the eyes as such should be positioned relative to the frame of the picture; the typical emphasis is on the placement of centers of mass in the frame or relative to the vanishing point in cases of central perspective. If such a compositional principle is not discussed in art analysis, it seems that its manifestation throughout the centuries and varieties of artistic styles (including the extreme styles of the 20th century) must be guided by unconscious perceptual processes.
© (1998) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Christopher W. Tyler, "Eye placement principles in portraits and figure studies over the past two millennia", Proc. SPIE 3299, Human Vision and Electronic Imaging III, (17 July 1998); doi: 10.1117/12.320133; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.320133


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