TypeContrastResulting Attribute
Curved LineMaximumEmotionally Active
Esthetically Dynamic
Spatially In Depth
Straight LineMinimumEmotionally Passive
Esthetically Decorative
Spatially Static

A curved line is dynamic, ever changing. It has more contrast than a straight line and it is more naturalistic.

The straight line is more monotonous, has less contrast, and is more static in character. But the straight line is more exact, so architects use the straight line to simplify building requirements.


The Bull sculpture by Robert McKnight illustrates the qualities of curved lines.


The above image shows the Great Pyramid of Giza as it likely looked in antiquity. Visually, the straight lines emphasize stability and permanence.


The dynamic qualities of the curved line can be combined with the decorative qualities of the straight line by using a curved line with a continuous ratio so that it becomes repetitive and, therefore, decorative. The spiral is such a curved line, a favorite of wrought iron workers as well as great painters like Gauguin and Matisse.

This landscape by Gaugin combines straight and curved lines to create a decorative effect.

BRM156234 Brittany Landscape, 1894 (oil on canvas) by Gauguin, Paul (1848-1903); Private Collection; French, out of copyright

Putting horizontal lines in the bottom of a picture, vertical lines in the middle, and diagonal lines at the top increases the decorative quality of line by its multiple, repeated use.

Choose a link to learn more about the Alphabet

The Elements  
LineLine DirectionShape
Other Topics  
The AttributesCompositionThe Picture Plane
 About the Authors 
 Alphabet Home 

The Alphabet of Art is a service of, the home of fantasy and science fiction author Jack Massa. Jack developed this site based on manuscripts and illustrations by Robert J. McKnight. If you have comments on the Alphabet or this site, please contact us here.

Copyright 1997-2020 by Jack Massa. The Alphabet of Art and all information on this site may be freely copied and distributed without charge, provided proper acknowledgement is given to the authors and the Copyright Holder, including the URL of this web site.

Leave a Reply