The Golden Ratio in Art

by Aileen Mitchell 6. May 2016 11:46

Frequent readers of The Independent online will remember the New Year's Eve photograph of a street scene in Manchester that went viral.

After a keen observer pointed out that the composition of the photo had the perfect balance of the golden ratio, the image was shared by millions online.

What is the golden ratio? 

The golden ratio is a mathematical tool used in architecture and design to achieve visual harmony and balance in a composition. To many, it's the most pleasing way of arranging shapes in a composition.

The ratio is found when dividing a line into two parts (one longer and one smaller). The length of the longer part divided by the length of the smaller part should equal the same number as the whole line before it was broken into parts. Clever, eh?

Used by some of the greatest artists of all time, this calculation has been found on some of their most famous works.

The golden ratio, also known as Phi is still recommended to art students for advice on laying out their work on canvas.

Leonardo da Vinci was an artist who used the golden ratio extensively. Known as 'the divine proportion' in the Renaissance period, it's clear why it was used so much.

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci

Saint Jerome by Leonardo da Vinci

We can't always express what it is about art that makes us feel a certain way. However, the golden ratio has stood the test of time as a theory that explains the perfection of some of the greatest works of art. 

There are other patterns and sequences based on the concept of the golden ratio, which all offer a form of symmetry in design and composition. ArtGallery artist Kathryn Edwards demonstrates the use of the Fibonacci series. 

Fibonacci's Fish by Kathryn Edwards

Next time you feel a great satisfaction looking at a work of art, take a moment to see whether everything appears to be in perfect balance. 

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