Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Color for the Perceptual Organization of the Pictorial Plane: Victor Vasarely’s Legacy

Version 1 : Received: 26 January 2020 / Approved: 27 January 2020 / Online: 27 January 2020 (01:54:27 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

DOI: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e04375


Victor Vasarely’s (1906-1997) important legacy to the study of human perception is brought to the forefront and discussed. A large part of his impressive work conveys the appearance of striking three-dimensional shapes and structures in a large-scale pictorial plane. Current perception science explains such effects by invoking brain mechanisms for the processing of monocular (2D) depth cues. Here in this study, we illustrate and explain the local effects of 2D color and contrast cues on the perceptual organization in terms of figure-ground assignments, i.e. which local surfaces are likely to be seen as “nearer” or “bigger” in the image plane. Paired configurations are embedded in a larger, structurally ambivalent pictorial context inspired by some of Vasarely’s creations. The figure-ground effects these configurations produce reveal a significant correlation between perceptual solutions for “nearer” and “bigger” when no other monocular depth cues are given in the image. In consistency with previous findings on similar, albeit simpler visual displays, a specific color may compete with luminance contrast in resolving the planar ambiguity of a complex pattern context. Vasarely intuitively understood, and successfully exploited, this kind of subtle context effect in his art, well before empirical investigations had set out to study and explain their genesis in terms of information processing by the visual brain.


monocular depth cues; luminance contrast; colour; visual arts; image plane; human perception; brain; 3D structure; figure-ground; Gestalt Theory


ARTS & HUMANITIES, Architecture and Design

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