Seeing and Believing: The Art and Science of Perspective

Session details


Museum based

Curriculum Links
History of art
Art (drawing and perception)
Science (optics)

Key Stage 4 & Key Stage 5
Suitable for Years 10 & 11 and Years 12 & 13 (post-16)

Length of session
75-90 minutes

Maximum group size
20 students


In this session students will learn about:


  • Light and shadow demonstrations
  • Geometry and the invention of single-point linear perspective
  • Drawing with a camera obscura


This session explores the science of light, the invention of single-point linear perspective, drawing and the perception of space.

We will look at how artists in the Renaissance developed the mathematical theory of linear perspective beginning in Florence during the 1400s CE, and how this knowledge was applied to create the illusion of 3-D pictorial space.

We will then look at different types of optical devices that artists used in the past to create the illusion of perspective including lenses and the camera obscura.

We will experiment using camera obscuras to draw outdoor scenes around the Sheldonian Theatre.

We finish by reflecting on the process of perception in drawing comparing the use of the camera with drawing by eye.

This session links with a session on perspective in art at the Ashmolean.