Phantascope Phantascope
Home Button
Contact Button  

A combined pocket size Hyperscope & Psudoscope,
and more.

Discover the Eyebenda

Find out about the Eyebenda spacer
Further Reading

Pseudoscopic Vision In Art

The Dutch artist Escher was given a prismatic pseudoscope, and described his experience like this:

Your prisms are basically a simple means of undergoing the same sort of inversion that I have tried to achieve in my print 'Convex and Concave'. The tin staircase that the mathematician Professor Scouten gave me, which gave rise to the print 'Convex and Concave' will definitely invert if one looks at it through the prisms. I mounted them between two pieces of cardboard which were held together with elastic bands; this makes a handy little viewing box. I took them with me on a walk in the woods and enjoyed myself looking a pool with fallen leaves, the surface of which suddenly stood on its head; a watery mirror with the water on top and the sky beneath, and never a drop of water falling down.

Pseudoscopic properties are visible in the work of many artists. This is not necessarily because the artists who produced them had that in mind, but in their efforts at different times in the history of art, to represent 3 dimensions on a 2 dimensional surface and to understand and manipulate the picture plane, they selected visual elements which most readily adapted to pictorial representation. They believed that the requirements of 'making a picture' took priority over the mere need to be accurate in the literal sense. The flattening of space is obvious enough in some of the work of Piero della Francesca (see his unfinished Nativity) and Francesco Guardi, both showing the unmistakable flattening of telephoto lens effects. Monet and Canaletto did exactly the opposite; their works show wide-angle characteristics.

It is the work of the 19th century painter Cezanne, however, where pseudoscopic qualities literally come to the fore. His watercolours during the years 1885-1900 not only give background parity with foreground, but by his choice of the medium of watercolour, creates a remarkable overall pseudoscopic transparency, and in many instances an unmistakable X-Ray effect. The pseudoscopic content in his painting is however much more extensive and widespread than this, and may have escaped scholarly attention because of a general unfamiliarity with the properties of pseudoscopic vision. One distinguished essayist noticed these conflicts, but referred to them as 'binocular ambiguities'. The Cubists' indebtedness to Cezanne is obvious enough and well- documented. What is not obvious, is that the distinctly pseudoscopic handling of space in his paintings, destroyed and revised the classical role of virtual space within the picture plane'. This revision was one of the important pictorial innovations that helped to make Cubism possible, and paved the way for Modernism.