3D Cinema is Art’s New Renaissance

James Cameron's Avatar

While part of the animation blogosphere has been agitated by the apparent resemblance between James Cameron’s Avatar and Marc Adler’s Delgo (see here and here), Jonathan Jones’ On Art Blog for The Guardian uses the film’s impending release to make a rather bold statement on the importance of stereoscopic movies. He feels that the technology’s ability to provide an “unprecedented depth of field it creates and the convincing sense of looking not at a flat screen, but into a world of solid forms in real space” is a artistic revolution comparable to the Renaissance.

In the 15th century, artists discovered how to paint bodies and landscapes as if they had depth and solidity. Painting triumphed over the flat surface to create the illusion of a real scene glimpsed through the square enclosure of the wooden panel or canvas, as if you were watching a play on a stage.

The effect was just as dazzling, just as unexpected as 3D cinema–and it has lasted a lot longer than the gimmicks of 1950s science fiction. Visitors to the National Gallery stand fascinated by the illusion of a real room, with real shadows, depth–even real air–in Jan van Eyck’s painting the Arnolfini portrait [see below].

Arnolfini portrait by Jan van Eyck

Author: Harvey Deneroff

Harvey Deneroff is a Los Angeles-based independent animation and film scholar specializing in labor history. He formerly taught at the Savannah College of Art and Design and was editor of Animation Magazine, Animation World Magazine, and Graiffit (published by ASIFA-Hollywood). He is the founder and past president of the Society for Animation Studies.

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