I've suspected this for some time, and I finally got an article that shows this, albeit in a more practical way. The Golden Ratio is kind of a crap number when it comes to nature, art, and design. Now, the author, John Brownlee, suggests the Golden Ratio (or, more simply, 1:6) isn't practical for mathematical reasons. He firstly says that the number isn't just 1.6, or 1.6180 as he notes. In fact, the ratio is much like pi in the sense that it just keeps on going and going. This makes any design based on 1:6 to almost certainly mathematically impossible. This makes sense, and in his article he suggests that designers don't really pay attention to the Golden Ratio anyway because there are far more important numbers to consider. For example, an architect really needs to think about load-bearing formulas first.
Taking the idea of the Golden Ration being irrelevant in art a step further, Brownlee also suggests that people don't even think that the ratio is necessarily more beautiful than other shaped designs. He points out that in a study people didn't choose the design with the ratio any more than they did the others. This is probably because by default the design really can't exist mathematically, but I believe more so that the Golden Ratio is simply awkward. Have you ever worked with a canvas that was 100 x 160, or 10 x 16, or 20 x 32? I have, I can say that it's just plain weird. It doesn't look right. Things just don't fit.
So I know what you're probably thinking, that's it's not the size of the canvas that matters but the image on it. While I see the point, I don't agree that this is true because if it's only about the image then where does the Golden Ratio really fit in? I mean, if there's a border around the object that fits into the 1:6 mold then doesn't that affect the overall beauty of the image? And that is my point right there. How can one call an image "Golden" if that image is larger or smaller than the ratio? With art, everything must be taken into consideration, not just the convenient object that does fit the ratio. Cherry pick and you'll often get what you want. Choose the 100 x 160 canvas and you'll get why people need to cherry pick in the first place to make their argument fit.
Can one paint on a 100 x 160 canvas, or even should one? That's not really the question. If it works for your art then have at it, but let's not spread some false idea that the Golden Ratio is the standard for beauty, because quite simply it's not only not the standard, but it doesn't even work.
Greg Mason Burns is an American-born painter living in the south of Brasil. These are his thoughts on life as an artist.