Thursday Art Exercise ~ Composition, Pt. 2: The Golden Mean

Image Credit: © -

Image Credit: © –

How do you create an artistic composition that is pleasing to the eye? Many artists use a mathematical concept called “the golden mean.” This is a close relative to another compositional principle called “the rule of thirds.” In today’s exercise, I’ve included three short videos that I’ve found around the Web (each video is approx 3-4 min long).
Each video takes a slightly different approach to explaining how the golden mean works, so it will be beneficial for you to watch all three.

I’ve also added links to three paintings: one by Claude Monet and two by Russian artist, Pavel Filonov. After you watch the videos, look at each of the paintings and see if you can figure out how the artist used the golden mean or rule of thirds in his compositions.

First, the videos:

Video #1 appears courtesy of The Virtual Instructor –


Video #2 is by Will Kemp –

Video #3 is from Ronald Swanwick of The Painting and Drawing Channel

Link to Video #3:Composition-The Golden Mean (Golden Section) with Ronald Swanwick


Now that you’ve watched the videos, take a look at the following three paintings from and see if you can figure out how the artist implemented the golden mean or rule of thirds in his composition:

Painting #1: Claude Monet. Shipyard near Honfleur. 1864. Oil on canvas.

Painting #2: Pavel Filonov. Landscape. Wind. 1907. Oil on cardboard.

Painting #3: Pavel Filonov. Self-Portrait. 1925.


  1. Thanks for the good synopsis and examples of this topic. If you want an easy way to apply the golden ratio, rule of thirds and other aids to composition and creativity, there’s an app called PhiMatrix that overlays these tools as templates to any image on your screen, in any software app you use. As Luca Pacioli noted, “Without mathematics there is no art.”

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