on the galloping horse is a tiny figure in
the bottom left of the foreground. We see
the winding road through Massachusetts
as Wood seeks to immortalize this important event in our country’s history.
Other artists of landscapes have used
this technique, almost as if they are sitting
up high on a hill to gain a broader viewpoint. Vincent Van Gogh used a bird’s eye
view several times, as in his 1890 painting Landscape with Carriage and Train in
the Background. Rather than just focus on
one object in the landscape, we can survey
all that is around as our eyes have many
choices of what to look at. 1
But using the perspective of a bird’s eye
view is not limited to rolling hill landscapes.
Gustave Caillebotte was a French artist active in the city of Paris from 1875 to
1894. His cityscapes of Paris are known
for the exact use of one and two point linear perspective. In his 1878 painting Rue
Halévy, From the 6th Floor, Caillebotte
gives us a spectacular view out an apartment window onto the busy 19th century
street below. 2
But, for a change in point of view,
you need not think only high. You
can also go low! The other option to
provide a change in perspective is a
Worm’s Eye view, as if you are on the
ground looking up at the world. This
usually requires exaggerated foreshortening but can provide a whimsical take on the world.
A famous example is American artist
Georgia O’Keeffe’s The Lawrence Tree.
Whether it is bird’s eye view or worm’s
eye view, we are talking about point of
view. Most artists make a representational painting as if the viewer is standing
or seated. And that is because the artist
is standing or seated as they work! The
point of view will determine the eye level,
and thus the horizon line. If the vantage
point is up high, the horizon line will be
high on the painting. If it is a worm’s eye
view, and thus a low eye level, the horizon line will be very low, if seen at all on
For an explanation and more examples
of point of view, click here to see the author of this column:
VIDEO: Pat talks
about Point of View
When should you use a high eye level?
When there are a lot of individual elements of a scene you want to see all at
When should you use a low eye level?
For a landscape or seascape, you would
use a low eye-level when you want the
composition’s elements (like houses,
trees, ships, etc.) to appear even larger.
And if the sky takes on a special significance, a low eye level allows much more
sky to be included.
Gustave Caillebotte, Rue Halévy, From the 6th Floor
Georgia O’Keeffe’s The Lawrence Tree
Sometimes that little
change can make all