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Space refers to the use of the surface area on a work of art. In any work of art there will be a single object or a number of primary objects.


These spaces are known as positive space.


The space between the primary objects, or around a single object, is known as negative space.


The way in which objects are positioned on the surface will create a sense of both width and height. A greater use of positive space will demonstrate a sense of domination by the object/s. Greater use of negative space will accentuate a sense of diminution of the objects.




Introduction to Modern European Art

Take a look at the image on the left.


Do you see faces or a vase?


If you are seeing a vase, then you are seeing the white area as the positive space. The black areas become the negative space.


If you are seeing faces, then you are seeing the black areas as the positive space, and the white area as the negative space.

Introduction to Modern European Art Gilot

Francoise Gilot, Composition, 20th Century.


This simple work by Francoise Gilot has large amounts of negative space, with a limited colour palette. The focus of the work is clearly from the centre to the left, and the eye is encouraged to move around the picture, taking in both the positive and negative spaces.

Artists may seek to create three dimensional space (depth) through the use of perspective drawing techniques and shading.Smaller objects in a space seem farther away. Larger objects in a space seem closer.

Introduction to Modern European Art Saenredam

Pieter Jansz Saenredam, The Choir and North Ambulatory of the Church of Saint Bavo, Haarlem, 1643.



In preparation for one of his scrupulously observed paintings of buildings, Pieter Saenredam, known to his contemporaries as the "first portraitist of architecture," made this drawing as the second of two preliminary studies of the choir and north ambulatory of Saint Bavo.


He first produced a perspective rendering in October 1634, working on location inside the church.


Saenredam began the drawing with a series of vertical and horizontal ruled graphite lines that delineate the faces of the side piers and establish a central vanishing point, clearly visible between the figures in the lower center.


He then elaborately finished the sheet in pen and ink, wash, and watercolor.


Corrections made during this phase included removing two figures from in front of the columns.


Note how Saenredam has used the pillars to give a sense of three dimensional space in this work, and how the figures appear in correct proportion in the distance.

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