The Eyes Have It: Focal Point Choices and Compositional Geometry in Painting

Chris Bartlett
Proceedings of Bridges 2011: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2011)
Pages 489–492 Short Papers


During research on the paper, Porter’s golden ratio, experimentally, co-authored by Dr. Dirk Huylebrouck, we initially proposed that the viewer of a painting might be able to discern the underlying invisible geometrical composition of a painting. The experiment showed that points picked by the respondents revealed golden ratio proportions, but perhaps not because subjects could discern it, but more likely because the artist purposely placed important focal points at golden section divisions of space. This paper presents a trial experiment where subjects were asked to choose their own focal points or points of interest in a painting and measure distances from the sides and each other. The results seem to confirm a √φ geometric structure governing the placement of key elements.