The Open Window

Exhibit Details

April 9, 2022 - July 10, 2022
Armstrong Gallery

First of all, on the surface on which I am going to paint, I draw a rectangle of whatever size I want, which I regard as an open window through which the subject to be painted is seen.

Leon Battista Alberti, 1435, De Pictura (translated by Cecil Grayson, 1972)

In De Pictura (On Painting, 1435), Italian Renaissance theorist Leon Battista Alberti instructed painters to consider the frame of the painting as an open window. This treatise laid out a method for effectively creating perspectival (single point) space in painting and, consequently, served as a defining concept for theories of painting, architecture, and moving pictures going forward. 

Of course, “Alberti’s window” has been challenged repeatedly by modern artists through painting movements like Cubism, photographic collage, avant-garde film, and multiple modes of contemporary art. The works in this exhibition either follow or challenge the metaphor of Alberti’s window, but also provide an intellectual space in which we might consider how our own views are framed and with what perspective.

The cornerstone of the exhibition is Lois Dodd’s painting, Broken Window with View. This painting takes Alberti’s trope literally – a painting of a window where the window’s frame is also the frame of the work – but also challenges the metaphor through alternating planes of pictorial depth and flatness. This visual push and pull guides your eye through the window to the view beyond, and also stops your eye, drawing attention to the fact that the painting is not a window, but rather an object on the wall.

For many of us, the last two years have been largely lived through a variety of windows, from the physical windows in our living and work spaces to the virtual windows on our phones and screens. How has this framing of perspective changed us?

Exhibit Resources

View the Exhibition Photo Album

Program Details

A Different Perspective FREE Take-Home Project Bag - this take-home art-making kit features activities inspired by The Open Window, including creating perspective on flat surfaces. Register for your free project bag and then pick it up in the Museum's Lobby. 

Don't forget to share your work in progress or completed project with us on social media using the hashtag #sgfprojectbag

a painting of a broken window where the edges of the canvas also replicate the shape of the window

Lois Dodd, Broken Window with View, 1987, Oil on linen. Collection of the Springfield Art Museum. © Lois Dodd/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY