Icarus's Illusions


Art always uses different tools of perception to create illusions.This painting is Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Pieter Bruegel. This painting represents the myth about how Icarus went against his father's warnings about flying too high or too low with his homemade wings. As a result, he drowned in the sea that was named after him, the Icarian Sea.

Bruegel uses different tools of perception within the painting to create illusions. He uses the monocular cues of relative size, texture gradient, interposition, linear position, and height in plane. The relative size cue can be seen with the two characters in the center of the painting, the farmer and shepherd. We can tell the farmer is closer to us because he is bigger than the shepherd. The texture gradient cue can be seen with the grass in the field that the farmer is sowing and with Icarus splashing around in the water. We see the waves and ripples Icarus makes because he is closer to us than the boat that is further away; we can't see the ripples the boat makes. The linear perspective cue can be seen with the vanishing point being the sun coming up in the upper right side of the painting. The height in plane cue can be seen with the city on the water's edge in the distant being higher up in comparison to the farmer which is lower and closer to us.

Icarus may not have perceived how high he flew or how low he flew because of the adrenaline rush he felt while flying. This is the same as when we put ourselves in situations that could have a negative result. We may not realize we're flying right into a dangerous trap because we perceive the situation as an adventure.


Great application of "psychological principles" to an entirely different field. As fine arts have been around for a lot longer than psychology this shows how we as humans use these principles all the time without even realizing that we are doing something "scientific".

Good analysis! I have always enjoyed drawing, and I liked your application of the visual perspective cues to art. Before I read about these principles in the textbook, I never really thought about how I subconsciously applied them to drawing. I just drew things the way I saw them, which happened to be in terms of the depth cues that I automatically interpret all the time, however knowing these might help make my perspective drawings stronger.

I'm so surprised how you applied two different concepts we learned (monocular cues and hormone secretion) to a single painting. I'll add one more monocular cue: aerial perspective. The island and the mountain in the distance is vague and bluish, so that we can feel the relative distance.

I love how you described the painting. This is a great work of art btw. I learned about the monocular cues long ago in art class, but I still find it interesting. I liked how you applied the cues to the piece and made the artwork real in your description. Once you apply them to a few piece of art, it becomes easier to see how they are applied. Other than that, I would like to know why you choose this particular painting.

I love how you explained how the artist used techniques to fool our eyes into thinking it's a 3-D painting. How an artist can manipulate principles of depth perception, to make a flat surface look 3-D, is really amazing. Like, we know it's a 2-D painting, yet we can see it as "realistic", or 3-D. Thank you for elaborating on that.

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This page contains a single entry by logda002 published on February 16, 2012 9:16 PM.

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