Asymmetrical Balance in Art: Definition, Design & Examples

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  • 0:00 Asymmetrical Balance
  • 0:41 Examples of Asymmetry in Art
  • 2:35 Why Choose…
  • 3:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Swoboda
In this lesson, we will explore what asymmetrical balance is and how it is represented in art. Visual aids are included to illustrate this type of design. A short quiz will follow.

Asymmetrical Balance

Have you ever seen a room design that included objects of differing sizes, shapes, and colors, yet it all'worked together? This is an example of asymmetrical balance which is achieved by the careful juxtaposition of different elements. For example, a large area of dull color can be balanced out by a much smaller area of bright color. And a small, very complex shape can be balanced by a large, simple shape.

Here we see asymmetrical balance where elements on either side of a composition do not reflect one another and symmetrical balance, which can be thought of as a mirror image, a composition in which objects on either side match one another.

Examples of Asymmetry in Art

Wolman Hold a Balance, by Vermeer

Let's take a look at a painting by Johannes Vermeer called Woman Holding a Balance which was painted between 1662 and 1665. Here, the use of asymmetrical balance is evident as the artist has punctuated large areas of shadow with much smaller areas of bright light. The focal point, the woman holding the balance, is right of center and is counter-balanced by the large, relatively plain and empty areas to the left.

Christ on the Mount of Olives, by Gauguin

Another example of asymmetrical balance can be seen in this 1889 painting by Paul Gauguin called Christ on the Mount of Olives. Our attention is drawn to the figure of Christ by the use of bright red in His hair and beard. That small area of intense color is counter-balanced by the rest of the composition, which is predominantly dark. Tiny hints of red in the background and Christ's garment tie the composition together. The vertical tree trunk in the center of the composition is asymmetrically balanced by the horizontal row of hills and trees in the background. Also, notice the use of space in this work. The figure of Christ dominates the lower left foreground and takes up a large area of space, while the tiny figures of His followers recede into the empty background, and are perceived as being farther away.

Cheval Majeur, by Raymond Dechamp-Villon
Cheval Majeur, by Raymond Dechamp-Villon

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