Porter’s Golden Section, Experimentally

Chris Bartlett and D Huylebrouck
Bridges Leeuwarden: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2008)
Pages 319–326


The paper relates the story of “The Porter Code”. Long standing research by the two co-authors, about Fairfield Porter’s paintings on one hand, and mathematical considerations about the golden section on the other hand, came together through discussions at several Bridges conferences. The experiment initially seemed to re-enforce Porter’s use of golden ratio harmony in his composition, but the co-authors re-thought their original conclusion that the audience recognized golden proportions. Perhaps, if the paintings are indeed based on phi relationships then the test subjects’ choices of dominant divisions of space and subject matter may just naturally appear to corroborate a golden ratio composition. The authors also recognize the experimental methodology employed in this initial collaboration requires careful revision to dispel skepticism over the significance of the results.