Gestalt & Art

When most of us hear the Gestalt Principles we tend to draw on blank expressions.  Quite a few people, including myself, would say we have no experience or knowledge to what that is, but we all have come into contact with it in our lives and have not known it.  The Gestalt Principles are vase_illusionused in art and advertising and can be included in recreational fun. The example that most of us have seen is the image of the chalice or vase where when looked at we see either a chalice or vase or a set of faces looking toward one another. With this we can see that two images can occupy the same space.  In this blog, I will be talking about some history to this principle and other forms that this takes place in our lives.

What does Gestalt mean? According to (The Gestalt Principles, n.d & Behrens, 1998), Gestalt is a psychology term that means “unified whole.”  The Gestalt theorists came about in the 1920’s and were the first to investigate perceptual organization in Germany.  The main theorists responsible for this study were Johann Wolfgang von Goeth, Ernst Mach, and Christian von Ehrenfels and the researchers responsible are Kurt Lewin, Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, and Wolfgang Kohler (Gestalt Theory of Visual Perception, n.d.). There are six principles to the Gestalt Perception.  The first is Similarity – which means that a group or grouping that looks like a single unit because the shapes are the same or similar in some way.  The second is Proximity – which means that the items are put close together to that people see them as a group.  The third principle is Closure, which happens when an image is present and it is not gestalt_illustration-01complete, but the persons perception completes the image.  The fourth is Continuity or Continuation – when happens when your eye and brain are moved through an image to another object.  An example would be a flow line going through another image and you are compelled to follow the flow like a river but you still notice the two separate images as separate even though they are made as one. The fifth is Symmetry, which states that the viewer should not be given the impression that something is out of balance, or missing, or wrong. If an object is asymmetrical, the viewer will waste time trying to find the problem instead of concentrating on the instruction (Gestalt Principles, n.d.). The final principle is Figure and Ground, which happens when you use shading or size to change the brain’s perception.  Silhouettes and complex relationships are an example of how our brains create order in chaos.

I would like to now share some of my own experiences with Gestalt that will hopefully shed some light on this subject.  For me, I was an art student in high school and I saw quite a bit of art with shapes and basic colors, of course it was the 1980’s, and I found this art very appealing to the eye and fun.  What classification this would fall in would be proximity with similar shapes and colors.  My favorite Gestalt example that most of us have seen is the panda image from the Wold Wild Life Federation. closure_a The panda is not complete, but our mind completes the image. This is an excellent example of the Gestalt principle of Closure.

So I hope this blog has helped explain what the Gestalt Principles are and their background to give you some appreciation of this perceptual theory to the art world.  You will now start seeing this in the world around you in art, interior design, advertising, and even in the way you place and arrange things in your home and work space.


Behrens, R. R. (1998). Art, Design and Gestalt Theory. LEONARDO, 31(4), 299-303.

Gestalt Principles. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2015, from

The Gestalt Principles. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2015, from htt
Gestalt Theory of Visual Perception. (n.d.). Retrieved February 1, 2015, from


3 thoughts on “Gestalt & Art

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