Using Shadows In Art

It has been suggested that some of the earliest art ever made occurred when someone decided to trace their own shadow. Leonardo da Vinci found that depicting shadows in art were essential in order to give the illusion of spatial depth and perspective. Some modern artists and photographers began using the shadow as an important element of their work, at times allowing the shadows they found to be the subject of the art. Scroll down to see several examples of famous art works using shadow, as well as several pictures taken by Artsology.

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Photograph by Paul Strand, Wall Street, 1915.

Strand believed that photography was an art form in its own right rather than something to be used as a visual aid to painters. He disliked soft focus and other photographic manipulations that some photographic artists used, and instead was a proponent of what he called "straight photography." As you can see here, Strand utilizes the shadows of the architectural recesses as well as the shadows of the figures as major elements of his image composition.

Paul Strand photograph of Wall Street, New York, 1915

Below left: Photograph by Alexander Rodchenko, Girl with a Leica, c. 1934.
Below right, Shadow studies, drawings by Leonardo da Vinci.

Girl with a Leica by Alexander Rodchenko and shadow studies by Leonardo da Vinci

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Below: Alexander Rodchenko, Stairs, 1930. As you can see in both the picture above and this one below, Rodchenko was very good at using shadows to create geometric art in his photographs. In addition to the use of shadows, he's using extreme foreshortening, diagonal shots and all manner of steep angles, which was a signature of his photographic style.

Alexander Rodchencko, Stairs, 1930

Below are a few photographs we took around the house on a sunny morning, capturing shadows on the walls and on furniture, trying our best to make some abstractions. If you have any shadow-inspired pictures that you would like to send to Artsology, please e-mail them to us and we'll post the most-interesting pictures!

To learn more about shadows from a scientific point of view, with some interesting examples of how shadows can create optical illusions, check out this feature: Shadows In Science and Art.

using shadows as inspiration in art

creating geometric art using shadows in photography

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