Station Point - Definition

Station Point – 1              March 1, 2007 The station point is the location in a linear perspective construction of the observer of the scene being depicted.  Brunelleschi’s conceptual breakthrough in 1412 was to pin the station point in a perspective construction to one specific place allowing the accurate identification of points of intersection of rays of reflected light with his picture plane, light traveling on its path to the single eyeball of the viewer of the scene represented by the station point.  It was Brunelleschi’s awareness of the picture plane as a device, a window, a flat, transparent plane for the recording of visual information received by a viewer from the temporal world that provided him with an abstract, self-referential, internally consistent planar context for the development of such notions as the horizon line, the vanishing point, the measuring line, the picture plane in plan and elevation, which enables the cross-coordination of the paths of light rays and so, the uncannily accurate representation of three- dimensional space on a two- dimensional plane such as a canvas, wood panel or the wall of a church.  Painting had represented three-dimensional space and forms revealed by light since the prehistoric cave paintings and three-dimensional imagery was elaborated in ancient Greece and Rome but it was the elucidation of the rules of perspective during the early Renaissance in Italy that provided the means to an artist to develop a rational, accurate and convincing pictorial space and then to populate its public plazas, private rooms and deep vistas with the personalities and the architecture of the age as well as with the creatures of mythology and the dramas of history.

The pinning of the station point was a momentous event in human history, it symbolized man’s renewed analytical encounter with matters of the surface of the earth.  The pinning of the station point symbolizes the Humanist project, the acknowledgement that the affairs of men on earth are of primacy that the temporal world is comprehensible on its own terms without the intervention of faith.  Guided by a passion for the works of the ancients, Renaissance man set out to explore the world, to redirect his vision from the heavens to a line of sight parallel with the surface of the earth toward his own distant horizon, his own vanishing point.  During the previous medieval epoch, human vision was upward toward God in heaven or down to the plowed soil.  Life on earth was brutal and short.  It was matters of a heaven, of grace and forgiveness or visions of everlasting damnation in the fires of hell that captured the imagination.  With the pinning of the station point the vision and dreams of mankind were fixed upon a distant but achievable horizon.  Men now demanded to see that horizon in their images where it remained for five hundred years until it was assaulted by Cezanne and swept away by Picasso and Braque in Cubism.  The pinned station point had a five hundred year run from 1412 to 1912 the epoch of reason and rational exploration.