The Conspiracy of the Triangle (NSFW)

The Conspiracy of the Triangle. A principle in composition.
Like it is The Conspiracy of the Brain.

It’s quite curious to see that even since the Palaeolithic paintings or engravings at the walls/caves, to call the Gods, the triangle was already a master principle in composition of art. But let’s come closer in time and let’s see this Conspiracy of the Triangle in some masters’ works. Some are not very obvious, but the moment you’ll visualise them by noticing small details they will become obvious to your tricky mind.

Don’t forget few other rules in composition like the so important Rule of Thirds, that brings the main subject to the right, 2/3 of the image, as we read from left to right; so the main subject or the main message should be placed there. Sometimes this main message is an empty space for us to go in. Remember this, and I’ll talk about it on other essay.

But let’s talk about triangles: hidden triangles, multiple triangles and obvious ones. And let’s play games with our tricky mind too.

Mona Lisa, by ©Leonardo da Vinci

Mona Lisa, by ©Leonardo da Vinci

One of the most obvious triangles in composition is Mona Lisa, or Gioconda by Leonardo daVinci. This one is there, in all her posture. The front head as the top of the triangle closed by the elbows creating the base line with the lighted hands. This one was too easy, but important for you to see what I’m talking about: the main force lines of the composition.

by ©Jean Honoré Fragonard

by ©Jean Honoré Fragonard

So let’s go to a less obvious with this wonderful painting by Fragonard. Well, it’s quite visible as well, but notice how masterfully done it is just by playing with light spots: the top angle of the triangle is at her hat’s lace, the right angle is located at the dog… and the dog is there for that reason, to give the balance needed, to compensate the light from the window, that’s why the dog is white and gets so much light: it sat down there to balance the composition. But now check the beautiful detail of the 3rd angle: the spot of light on the lace of the curtains on the left! It’s beautiful! And as you can see, masterfully balanced the whole composition. In a triangle.

More recently you can find lots of artworks following this, like this photograph by Cindy Sherman, using the hat on the left to close the triangle and balance the whole image, like Fragonard’s dog.

by ©Cindy Sherman

by ©Cindy Sherman

A triangle is also deeply meaningful in all religions and cultures, not only the metaphorical God-Son-Spiritu Sanctus, or the trilogy of Hindu Gods, the Trimurti, but also the sacred representations, and you can get them in Egyptian representations of even Greek ones, being God on the Top, or most of the times with the eye inside of it: the main subject location.

You can always think of pyramids all over the globe too. The divine and sacred importance of the triangle as the most balanced figure.

There’s also another triangle in a work of art: the triangle of the dialogue between the artist, the artwork and the viewer. And here I like to see the artwork at the top of the triangle, as the most important part of this dialogue.

If you stand at an endless road with open landscape for each side of yours, you’ll see the whole landscape as a triangle with the depth and perspective if you 2D the image, being the top of the triangle the spot most far away from you, it’s the perspective rule, and this triangles you’ll see often in artworks too, and usually playing with the vertical triangles, so we can have the perspective triangle and the main triangle in the same composition.

Back to the triangle in the composition, now with this triangle of perspective, is quite interesting to see how artists use them to tell a story, or to put further away in perspective the secondary subjects of the whole composition. Let’s look at the “Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe” de Manet. You can see the lady in white at the back, making the top of the triangle of perspective, and how Manet directed the right man stick pointing to a hidden angle of the bottom of the triangle and the picnic stuff on the left closing it. All this closing a smaller triangle composed by the main figures.

Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe, by Manet

Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe, by Manet

Or we can look at another wonderful play of triangles at the Titian’s “The three ages of man”, where you can see the childhood – creating a triangle itself -, the adulthood, another triangle on the left, the closest one to us, and at the end the final triangle, our final stage of life. All these 3 triangles creating a big one as main composition.

The three ages of man, by Titian

The three ages of man, by Titian

Now let’s look at Doisneau following the same rules: the main subject is the lady sitting at the bench creating a triangle with the policeman and the tree. Further away, and following the lady’s gaze, you can see a smaller triangle – because it’s further away in perspective-, and finally the child on the left closing the whole big triangle. There just to create the balance of the image…  again almost like the white dog of Fragonard.

by ©Robert Doisneau

by ©Robert Doisneau

I grew up looking at Hieronymous Bosch works, and his masterful play of triangles everywhere all creating the big triangle. Almost every secondary scene is composed in triangles, which all together create the main one. The bottom with all these white figures go up in a main line force till they reach the top, the angle with that main central top world.

by Hieronymous Bosch

by Hieronymous Bosch

And David laChapelle recreated the religion, with the Pope as maximum representation of God on Earth, and the people suffering at his feet, by the greed of their Gods.

by ©David laChapelle

by ©David laChapelle

Mixing the sacred triangle and the triangle in composition, in a more conceptual composition, there’s a masterpiece of Roger Ballen too.

by ©Roger Ballen

by ©Roger Ballen

And of course Diane Arbus inverted the triangle. Oh, wait, no, she inverted yes, but she left the main one there for you to find. Take a look.

by ©Diane Arbus

by ©Diane Arbus

Now take a look and find all the triangles left for you, the hidden ones, the obvious, the composition, the sacred and the perspective ones…

Welcome of the Conspiracy of the Triangle. Enjoy:

by ©Sebastiao Salgado

by ©Sebastiao Salgado

by ©Alvarez Bravo

by ©Alvarez Bravo

by ©Robert Mapplethorpe

by ©Robert Mapplethorpe

Now You See Me, Now You Don't, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

by ©Daniele & Iango

by ©Daniele & Iango

by ©Ross B Lewis

by ©Ross B Lewis

FillGood, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

FillGood, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

by ©Spencer Tunick

by ©Spencer Tunick

by ©Roberto Kusterle

by ©Roberto Kusterle

by ©Yannis Kontos

by ©Yannis Kontos

by ©Lauren Simonutti

by ©Lauren Simonutti

by Francesca Woodman

by Francesca Woodman

Extra Breasts, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

Extra Breasts, by ©Gonzalo Bénard

more recent essays on composition that you should read:
The Conspiracy of the Brain“,
What Makes a Good Photograph? I” and
What Makes a Good Photograph? II

post by ©Gonzalo Bénard for 2HeadS
follow @GBenard on twitter

Preview and Purchase now:

cover The Sacred Book of Gss GBenard IEnergyss

The Sacred Book of G” is a stream of consciousness, a thought provoking intimate journal written byGonzalo Bénard. After 3 days of brain death he reborn with a deep loss of memory. He reborn without any sense of his past — of his own roots — of his own self. Before that he’d spent his time creating defences to disguise his autism. He had lost it too. New born G had no memory and no defences.

I, Energy” is a book on Cosmic Consciousness, Quantum Physics and Old Shamanism written by Gonzalo Bénard who not only lived in Himalayas with shamans and in a Buddhist monastery but also in the Western Sahara with old shamans. A guide on healing and transcendental meditation and how you can master your own mind, leading yourself the collective consciousness.

Gonzalo Bénard is a lecturer, author, tutor of autistic teenagers, and a visual artist.His photography has been part of the annual programs of several universities around the world, mainly about the seriesOneness, Nudes and B Shot by a Stranger, and are in several private and public art collections such as Museum of Serralves, Cultural Centre of Cascais or Sir Elton John’s.
His photographs are also being used in Hollywood productions and TV series and you can see his work of photography at his webpage.

Follow @GBenard on twitter for daily updates.

On Amazon you can also purchase these 2 books of Gonzalo Bénard photography:
GBenard nude cover 1ss book cover

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