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Pictorial Composition (Composition in Art) (Dover Art Instruction) Paperback – June 1, 1976

4.3 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

A painting's technique, color, and perspective may all be excellent, yet the painting will fail unless its composition succeeds. Composition is the harmonious arranging of the component parts of a work of art into a unified whole. Henry Poore examines the works of old masters and moderns in this book and uses these examples to explain the principles of compositions in art.
All the paintings that the author analyzes are illustrated in the text—166 illustrations, including 9 in full color. Thirty-two diagrams by the author accompany his textural discussion of such topics as the importance of balance, entrance and exit, circular observation, angular composition, composition with one or more units, and light and shade. Balance is the most important of these topics, and it is considered in the greatest detail—balance of the steelyard, vertical and horizontal balance, and so on. A complete index enables the reader to locate his own specific areas of interest.
To see how a painting by Cézanne, Goya, or Hopper, for example, follows definite principles of composition allows the practicing artist or art student to learn composition from the finest instructors—the artists themselves. This book is also very useful to the art devotee, who will find his appreciation of the subject greatly enhanced.

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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Art Instruction
  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Reproduction of 1967 edition edition (June 1, 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486233588
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486233581
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.3 x 10.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the most thorough books in the teaching and analysis of composition I've ever had the fortune to read. All my other art books mention the neccessity of sound composition and eye movement but none give the detailed breakdown of how that's accomplished or why it fails. This book does. You aren't just told - it's broken down for you explicitly with dozens of examples from famous paintings. All kinds of compositions are examined.
Here is a list of the chapter titles and some (would be tiresome to include it all) of what they teach
1. Balance - rules, scale of attraction, vertical/horizontal balance, natural balance, apparant/formal balance, balance by opposition of line, balance by opposition of spots, transition of line...etc, etc, etc.
2. Entrance and Exit - getting into the picture, getting out of the picture
3. Circular Observation - circular composition, reconstruction for circular observation
4. Angular Composition - the triangle, the vertical line in angular composition, angular composition based on the horizontal, line of beauty, structural line
5. Composition with One or More Units - 2 units, 3 units, groups, the figure in landscape
6. Light and Shade - pricipality, gradation
Color Plates.....
If you really want to learn composition and get it down cold - get this book. It's a priceless gem.
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By A Customer on December 13, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've heard art instructors thrash around at length in conversations on composition and not come anywhere near getting their point across like this potent book. Don't let the slim page count fool you--the author simply doesn't need three hundred pages to illuminate his readers--this is clearly the effort of someone who has looked and thought deep and long about what makes some images so engaging and he isn't content just poking around the edges of the topic.
Poore writes in a grounded, succinct manner and supports his text with well chosen black and white reproductions (a few pages in the center are in color). This book presents and clarifies some crucial points for creating an image with a pulse. So many art books cost a small fortune and deliver marginal goods--this book asks for a very modest investment and delivers gold. My work is better for having read and studied it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book tells the classic rules of composition "that no one wants to tell you" and that others say "everybody knows" when in fact they don't. It covers the subject from the old school of classic composition. It is a masterpiece of information that I wish I had read years ago. Very highly recommended.
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By J on October 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a beginning drawing student, when you hear your instructor rambling about composition and eye movement all the time and points out to the composition in the slides you have to sit through... and keeps referring to Cezzane, well if you want to make sense of all that then pick up this book.
Don't be fooled by the size of the book. This is one amazing book that disects the composition with clarity and examples. It uses actual drawing/paintings and then demonstrate the concepts by literally disecting the illustrations.
I think all art students can learn from this book.
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Format: Paperback
There is a lot of really great information in here, especially for someone who has not had much education regarding composition; but it reads like an archaic, academic classic from a bygone era - when education was more of a sink-or-swim, weed'em-out affair than the more approachable style of current times. My copy shows copyright 1967 (not 1976 as Amazon reports), and the writing style is rather difficult. The author sometimes uses key terms (e.g., "axial plane") for several pages before doing us the favor of explaining just what that term means. Other passages were written so formally and distantly, I had to read them several times over and struggle with them before I had the "aha!" moments. The concepts then felt really valuable, almost like a secret code I had just broken. I just don't think it has to be that challenging. As I said though, there is a lot of good information in here,and I am excited about how this information will improve my painting and give me more confidence, as well as the ability to speak about compositional concepts with some expertise.
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By A Customer on February 7, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I appreciate this concise book which explains theories of composition using famous paintings. I found the section on "entering" and "leaving" a composition very helpful. Essentially, give the viewer a place to "leave" the composition rather than "backing out" of it. I wanted a tight handbook to improve my skills. I am glad I got this!
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Format: Paperback
This is the best book I've read so far on composition. Poore doesn't deliver anything that you wouldn't find in any book on painting, but to have it all in one book is superb. Most "how to...." books on painting provide a chapter on the subject, typically a brief introduction. In the 95 pages Poore is able to delve much further covering virtually every aspect of what makes a painting look good. Topics include:

a) The importance of balance and the various things that can affect it.

b) Entrance & Exit - getting in to and out of a picture

c) Circular observation and composition

d) Angular composition

e) composition with one or more units

f) how to use light and shade to balance the painting

The examples are well chosen, although there were one or two that, to me, didn't get a particular concept across. The writing style is a bit dry but certainly rewards perseverence. I've given it 4 stars in the hope that the bible of composition is out there somewhere. Well worth the money and if nothing else it provides an excellent checklist for you to follow in your art.
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