Power of the Center: A Study of Composition in the Visual Arts

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What deternines the overall organization of visual form in works op painting, sculpture, and architecture? Artists have sometimes ventured practical rules of thumb, and mathmaticians have looked for formulas that would prescribe ideal spatial relations between shapes. This Companion to Rudolf Arnheim's classic, Art and Visual Perception, shows how compositional form makes sense only when it utilizes visual symbols of the life experience that makes art meaningful.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520050143
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1984
  • Edition description: REVISED
  • Pages: 256

Meet the Author

Rudolf Arnheim (1904-2007) was Professor Emeritus of the Psychology of Art at Harvard University and the author of many books, including Film as Art and Visual Thinking.

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Table of Contents

Introduction vii

I Two Spatial Systems 1

A master key to composition 1

Centricity and eccentricity 2

Vectors and their targets 4

Interaction of the systems 8

II Centers And Their Rivals 13

Geometric and dynamic 13

The pull of gravity 15

The visual center underneath 18

Varieties of weight 21

Sculpture and the ground 24

Matisse under pressure 33

III The Viewer as a Center 36

Self-centered vision 36

Various positions in space 37

A slab in suspense 40

Seeing the world sideways 42

The viewer as an influence 44

Looking into depth 47

IV Limits And Frames 51

Enclosures spread energy 51

Tampering with the range 52

The functions of frames 55

Framed space not quite closed 58

Rectangular formats 62

Challenges to the middle 66

Perspective creates a center 68

V Ton Do And Square 72

Floating shapes 72

Tondi stress the middle 75

The role of eccentricity 79

Disks inside 85

The oval 89

Squares balance the coordinates 94

Aibers's nests of squares 101

Mondrian overrides centricity 104

A square by Munch 107

VI Centers as hubs 109

Provimg Stability 109

Tensition through deviation 119

Dynamics of the human figuer 126

Saltimbanques and Guernica 129

VII Centers as Dividers 133

Bipolar composition 133

The necessary latch 137

Diagonals 143

Noli metengere 146

VIII Volumes and nodes 149

Volumes and vectors interactiong 149

Kinds of nodes 151

Nodes of the body 154

Faces and hands 158

Singing man 162

IX Space in depth 166

Perceiving the third dimension 166

Objects behaving in space 168

Enclosures replacing frames 170

The added view of projection 177

Coctinuity of space 179

What perspective Contributes183

Time in space 187

The symbolism of the frontal plane 190

X Centers and grids in buildings 195

Grids prevail 195

Design in elevation 197

Design on the ground 200

Coping with full space 204

Composition in time 212

Are there exceptions? 214

A physical foundation 217

Composition carries meaning 221

Glossary 225

Bibliography 231

Acknowledgments 235

Index 237

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