Paint me a pixel

May 22, 2007

“…it is possible to demonstrate an ongoing dependence of computer graphics on the older history of art. … even where they set out to mimic nature directly, graphic designers tend to choose phenomena that are not only amenable to computation but are also in line with inherited pictorial versions of naturalism.

In so doing, computer designers recapitulate the history of art in various particulars: The history of three-dimensional rendering rehearses the early history of linear perspective; the current interest in translucent “mylar” layering revives diaphonous rococo effects of fresco and oil paint; and the routines for lighting gradients (such as Phong and Blinn rendering) recall seventeenth- and eighteenth-century interests in specular and diffuse reflections.

In a wider sense, the conventions of computer-generated perspectival scenes in military and scientific simulations, architecture, and commercial games appear “natural” or mathematically driven to their designers, even though they can be shown to derive from Western landscape painting of the last two centuries.”

[Excerpt from The Domain of Images, by James Elkins, emphasis my addition]

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