The Alphabet of Art
|| Resulting Attributes
Spatially in depth
|Horizontal or Vertical
The diagonal line has no equal in visual intensity. It suggests
depth or movement. The periphery of the eye is very sensitive
to movement or to any diagonal, so it calls for complete attention
from the viewer. That is why traffic signs designed to warn of
hazards are diamond shaped, using diagonals.
Vertical and horizontal lines infer a static or decorative visual
condition. An example is a top hat. It appears taller than it
is broad, but this is an illusion.
|In architecture, the Parthenon in Athens is said not to have a
straight line in it. In fact, curved lines are used in many cases
to make the straight lines appear straighter. For example, there
are three terraces at the bottom of the Parthenon. If they were
not curved, they would appear to sag, as they are three inches
higher in the middle than at the ends. The builders of the Parthenon
placed all the horizontal lines at the bottom, the vertical lines
in the middle and the diagonal lines at the top. This creates
a decorative design by making the lines appear all on one plane.
The Parthenon is a linear composition, as illustrated by the diagram at right.
This points to an important principle: It takes only a small
amount of diagonal to visually equal or offset a great amount
of vertical, or an even greater amount of horizontal.
In summation, the diagonal is much more visually intense than
the vertical and much greater in impact than the horizontal.
Another place you can see the use of line direction is by comparing
the automobiles designed in the 1950s and 1960s to the models
from the 1920s and 30s. The cars of the later period were designed
by lowering the verticals, emphasizing the horizontals, and using
curved lines to emphasize function.
Composition in Red, Yellow, and Blue
by Piet Mondrian.
Many modern artists have experimented with the effects of line
direction. Among the most important is Piet Mondrian. By showing
how to eliminate the diagonal line, he showed the way to a whole
new concept of art. He said, "Any object can be interpreted
in terms of horizontals and verticals." To relieve the monotony
of using only verticals and horizontals, he added small areas
of primary colors, which he incorporated in his pictures.
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