Beyond the Canvas: Exploring Art’s Spatial Boundaries

Tracing the Evolution of Space in Art from Fontana to Saudek

When discussing the “spatial concept,” one’s mind immediately leaps to Lucio Fontana’s famous “slashes,” an icon that has profoundly marked the collective imagination, including those not regularly immersed in the art world. This term, widely debated and analyzed by critics, refers – in very simplified terms – to the artist’s attempt to explore dimensions beyond the painted surface, seeking alternative spaces to extend the artistic experience beyond the canvas’s limits.

Without dwelling excessively on Fontana, or entering the debate about him, I wish to focus instead on how, in eras preceding his famous “slashes” or “holes,” other artists explored this “beyond” of the canvas, albeit using different methods.

Fontana - Concetto Spaziale
Fontana - Concetto Spaziale

My interest centers on the use of windows in art, an element with profound meaning and multiple implications. A window, whether open or closed, suggests the existence of an “inside” and an “outside,” symbolically representing the private and the public, respectively. Delving deeper into this concept, one might interpret the exterior as an unknown and potentially treacherous realm, while the interior represents the familiar, the known, the safe.

In this brief examination, I propose an analysis of selected paintings and photographs, chosen to demonstrate how the window has been employed in various ways: from those opening onto landscapes, completing the scene, to those introducing light, illuminating the portrayed subject; from windows emphasizing perspectives to those suggesting an escape towards a mysterious exterior.

Lorenzo Di Credi - Annunciazione
Lorenzo Di Credi - Annunciazione

In Titian Vecellio’s “Venus with a Lute Player,” the window serves as a theatrical backdrop. The open curtain reveals a landscape that becomes a visual vanishing point, without creating a juxtaposition between inside and outside. In this work, the perspective is harmonized in an ideal balance, where each plane holds equal importance.

Lorenzo di Credi, in his “Annunciation,” employs a well-defined window to extend the perspective and enclose the environment, isolating it from the outside and ordering the scene.

Pietro Perugino – San Bernardino risana una fanciulla
Pietro Perugino – San Bernardino risana una fanciulla

In Pietro Perugino’s “Saint Bernardino Healing a Young Girl,” the background landscape, framed by columns and an arch, enhances the Renaissance architecture, overshadowing the human figures and leading the viewer towards infinity.

Conversely, in Jan Vermeer’s “Woman Reading a Letter in Front of a Window” and “Woman Writing a Letter with Her Maid,” the window is not used to “exit,” but to “bring in” light, which in turn creates atmosphere and narrates emotions.

Jan Vermeer - Donna che legge una lettera davanti alla finestra
Jan Vermeer
Donna che legge una lettera davanti alla finestra
Jan Vermeer - Donna che scrive una lettera alla presenza della domestica
Jan Vermeer
Donna che scrive una lettera alla presenza della domestica

Concluding with Jan Saudek, who often used the window of his studio as a backdrop for his scenes, it is evident that the desire to explore beyond, to escape from reality, is not limited by time or technique.

These examples demonstrate that Fontana’s “slashes” innovation was not an isolated gesture, but the pinnacle of a centuries-old artistic quest to explore and represent what lies beyond the visible surface.

Marco Mattiuzzi

Pieter De Hooch – Donna che si allaccia il corpetto vicino a una culla
Pieter De Hooch
Donna che si allaccia il corpetto vicino a una culla
Jan Saudek
Jan Saudek
Jan Saudek
Jan Saudek
By Marco Mattiuzzi

A multifaceted artist, former teacher and communicator, he has dedicated years to art and communication. He taught classical guitar, exhibited photos and wrote in magazines. In the book sector, he promoted photography and art through HF Distribuzione, a company specialized in mail-order sales. He currently owns CYBERSPAZIO WEB & STREAMING HOSTING. In 2018, he created the Facebook group "Art Pills" with over 65,000 members and manages CYBERSPAZIO WEB RADIO dedicated to classical music. He collaborates with several cultural organizations in Vercelli, including Amici dei Musei and Artes Liberales.
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