Atmospheric Perspective in Urban Landscapes

New York artist Diana Horowitz is featured in the September 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine in an article titled “The Height of Abstraction,” by Judith Fairly.

Free Download: 5 Simple Effects to Gain Atmospheric Perspective in Your Art

Diana Horowitz creates urban landscapes from her elevated viewpoint in New York City. This unique perspective reduces her subject to simple geometric shapes and color relationships.

Diana Horowitz painted landscapes of New York City from the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center for 15 years until May, 2001. A few years after 7 World Trade Center was rebuilt in 2006, she took up residence on the 48th Floor—10,000 square feet of unleased raw space that provides a 360-degree view of the city. From this vantage point, Horowitz continues painting views of the city and of the construction next door of 1 World Trade Center (Freedom Tower).

To achieve an illusion of depth in paintings like Horowitz’s cityscapes, painters often employ aerial perspective, a technique in which distant objects are depicted as paler in color, less detailed and usually bluer than near objects.

World Trade Center Reflecting Pools and Harbor (oil, 42×30) by Diana Horowitz

The scientific explanation for this phenomenon, which is also called atmospheric perspective, is that light of short wavelength—blue light—is scattered most in the atmosphere, and the colors of distant dark objects appear bluer. Light of long wavelength—red light—is scattered least; thus, distant bright objects appear redder.

Aerial perspective techniques were used by Dutch landscape painters in the 15th century and were studied extensively by Leonardo da Vinci. Romantic landscapes painted by the 19th-century British artist J.M.W. Turner are distinguished by his ambitious use of aerial perspective.

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Find more painting advice from Horowitz, her 20th-century influences
Additional paintings that demonstrate atmospheric perspective.

Read more about Diana Horowitz in the September 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine:
Click here for the digital version.
Click here for the print version.

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