Art and Design

When Perspective Goes Wrong

This is a famous print from 1754 by the artist William Hogarth. He called it Satire on False Perspective. It is full of visual jokes about how things look if an artist gets perspective wrong. How many impossible things can you see?

The woman leaning out of the window is the same size as the man on the distant hill, so it looks like she could be lighting his pipe. Look at the barrel on the right – you shouldn’t be able to see its top and bottom at the same time. There are about 20 other problems!

Satire on False Perspective, William Hogarth


You will need a china marker and either an acrylic panel or a window. You will also need a tall stick to tie to a chair.

The word ‘perspective’ comes from the Latin to ‘see through’. This is because you imagine projecting through the drawing surface to the subject beyond.

  • Set up an acrylic sheet to look through or use a window to look outside.
  • If you are using an acrylic sheet, set up some books or other simple objects as your subject. If you are using a window, find a simple subject outside.
  • Make sure you can keep your head in exactly the same position while you draw, for example by fixing a stick to the back of a chair to mark where your chin should be.
  • Look through one eye and trace with the china marker what you can see.
  • When you have finished, notice how things appear in perspective.
  • Try another drawing from a new position closer to the surface.
  • Notice whether the drawing is bigger or smaller. Can you think why it is different?
  • When you have finished, wipe the china marker off with a damp cloth.