Most people paint at a perspective that is like a couple of degrees below the horizontal.
Is there a word for this?

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    Want to warn you that the question as it stands is asking for an opinion and will likely be closed. I would take away the why do people make art this way ( I would say its because its the closest to the way people see the world they are capturing. ) and focus on what kind of perspective it is. This site is more about the techniques of arts and crafts than the philosophy of it.
    – rebusB
    Aug 22, 2019 at 14:41
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    The images you show are not from a perspective point that is a couple of degrees below the horizon, however (which is a very vague description anyway, because in linear perspective, the horizon is on the same level as the observer's viewpoint). Why did you post those images?
    – Joachim
    Aug 22, 2019 at 18:18
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    @Joachim. The OP did not use the word horizon, that was from your edit. The views actually are a few degrees below horizontal, at least where the horizon is above the midline of the image. I think it is pretty clear what the OP is asking, and is not technically trained regarding perspective so provided a visual aid. Unfortunately the question as phrased is a off topic for this site. Imma answer anyway though even though I expect it will be closed. its nice to be helpful.
    – rebusB
    Aug 23, 2019 at 3:47
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    I'm just looking for the terminology for this perspective, which no one seems to know! Even though I have heard the word for this view before, I cannot remember!
    – Conso
    Aug 23, 2019 at 8:46
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    @Joachim - Absolutely! Horizontal and horizon, though they have the same root, are totally different things! In this case it completely changes the conditions of the question. You can look below the horizontal, the vector your eyes are pointed in would be a few degrees below the horizontal line parallel to the ground. It may seem a strange way to word it, but it makes sense with the images shown. It doesn't make sense when the word is changed to horizon. You assumed it was a grammatical error, and then curtly accused the OP of making no sense after you "corrected" it.
    – rebusB
    Aug 24, 2019 at 0:12

2 Answers 2


There are, arguably, three distinct viewpoints in linear perspective, all having to do with the viewing angle in relation to the ground plane:

Thibault - three distinct viewing points
J.T. Thibault, "Application of Linear Perspective in the Graphic Arts" (c.1860), via handprint.com

All three are symbolized by the figure on the left, taking on three different positions in every picture. These viewpoints are very arbitrary, as they only serve a symbolic function, being relative to our daily experience (below, level with, and above our 'common sense' perspective of standing on the ground plane). All three take place on a relatively small arch in relation to the ground plane.
(Notice that these viewpoints have nothing to do with the position of the (true) horizon in the picture, as this can shift up and down on the artist's whim, without him/her having to adjust his/her viewpoint.)

Respectively, these viewpoints may be referred to as

  • A low viewpoint: (on-the-)ground perspective or, using a term more commonly used in the world of photography and cinematography, the low-angle shot. (More specific and extreme examples are ant's view perspective, worm's eye view, or, at least in Dutch, frog's perspective);
  • A 'normal' viewpoint. Set at the 'default' viewing height, i.e. the height of the eyes of an average person standing on the (virtual) ground plane. The pictures you provide in your question seem to be of this category. As I mentioned in the comments, it is the most commonly used viewpoint, because it is the perspective "we see in" - it is the most natural and acceptable of perspectives. And;
  • A high viewpoint, also known as bird's eye view, or high-angle shot (or, in French, a 'vue plongeante', or 'plunging view').

You can find the relative height of the viewpoint by looking at the objects that cross the horizon line, because

objects at the same height as the viewpoint are intersected by the true horizon line.*

Looking at the pictures you posted, this overlapping object is a palm tree or a sign post.
For example, the third picture on the second row seems to have a higher viewpoint than the second picture on the first row. It is still quite hard to judge the height of the observer (of us), though, because the palm tree could hang lower in the first picture I mentioned.
For a real assessment of the observer's (or artist's or photographer's) viewing height, there has to be something identifiable in the picture of which we can estimate the height, like a person, or even a brick wall or staircase, since these have commonly used dimensions.

Also note that aerial perspective is an ambiguous term, as it is, as far as I know, more commonly used as a synonym of atmospheric perspective (which is the clearer term), which is the effect the atmosphere has on objects - more obvious at larger distances - where they gradually take on the colour (often blue) of the sky, an effect caused by scattering of the light rays. This effect is often enhanced by fog, but they're not really the same. As far as I know, it was introduced in painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

Caspar David Friedrich, Nordische Landschaft (Frühling), ca. 1825
Caspar David Friedrich, "Nordische Landschaft (Frühling)", ca. 1825

* https://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/perspect1.html#horizon

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    Aerial perspective is ambiguous... birds-eye is definitely the better term for "looking from above."
    – rebusB
    Aug 24, 2019 at 16:32
  • It is interesting that the most common POV we have a humans appears to have no conventional name in art making.
    – rebusB
    Aug 24, 2019 at 16:34
  • Yes, that's quite ironic. But that says something about the way we interpret things, as well, I think. And, of course, both high and low angle shots have a relatively large arch in which they can be recognized, whereas the default POV is more of an intuitive interpretation.
    – Joachim
    Aug 24, 2019 at 17:05

You are assuming that most paintings use this certain perspective, which is not the case. A subset of paintings do and those are landscape paintings which all of your examples consist of. This style typically uses two point perspective with the horizon parallel to the top and bottom of the frame. This could be considered landscape perspective.

The common sense explanation is that this is how we normally see the world, and many artists are simply seeking to capture what they see, especially naive and/or traditional landscape painters as in the pictures above. Plus by selecting a specific genre of painting they by definition have the same perspective.

However there are plenty of examples of "landscape" paintings that do not limit themselves to that POV, including landscapes painted from the birds-eye POV as in the last image. I would say in this day and age, with abstract, pop-art, cubism, and all the other genres there are probably as many if not more paintings that do not use traditional landscape perspective than those that do.

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    There are seperate names for perspectives as someone smaller (worms-eye view) or taller than an average human would see the world (bird's-eye view), but there doesn't seem to be a seperate name for a "humans-eye view". The pictures OP shows as examples are " humans-eye views", wheras the last one is a bird's-eye view with the horizon moved out of the view.
    – Elmy
    Aug 24, 2019 at 7:10
  • I have never heard of the term 'landscape perspective', nor does Google give me any noticeable hits. Can you provide any references?
    – Joachim
    Aug 24, 2019 at 9:46
  • @Joachim Google does hit, I checked... there is even a book with that title. I don't know that it is a convention but it is more than nothing.
    – rebusB
    Aug 24, 2019 at 16:25
  • I noticed that title, but it's a book that simply adresses "a new technique of drawing landscapes in perspective". It's about drawing landscape in perspective, not drawing in landscape perspective.
    – Joachim
    Aug 24, 2019 at 16:54

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