Visual Artist


Who is Agatharchus?

Agatharchus or Agatharch was a self-taught painter from Samos who lived in the 5th century BC. He is said by Vitruvius to have invented scene-painting, and to have painted a scene for a tragedy which Aeschylus exhibited. Hence some writers, such as Karl Woermann, have supposed that he introduced perspective and illusion into painting.

However, as this appears to contradict Aristotle's assertion that scene-painting was introduced by Sophocles, some scholars understand Vitruvius to mean merely that Agatharchus constructed a stage. But the context shows clearly that perspective painting must be meant, for Vitruvius goes on to say that Democritus and Anaxagoras, carrying out the principles laid down in a treatise written by Agatharchus, wrote on the same subject, showing how, in drawing, the lines ought to be made to correspond, according to a natural proportion, to the figure which would be traced out on an imaginary intervening plane by a pencil of rays proceeding from the eye, as a fixed point of sight, to the several points of the object viewed.

It was probably not till towards the end of Aeschylus's career that scene-painting was introduced, and not till the time of Sophocles that it was generally made use of; which may account for what Aristotle says.

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on July 23, 2013


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