Thursday, 26 January 2017

The artist-magicians of trompe l'oeil

This self-portrait by John Collier, painted in the early 1900s...

...continued a tradition which stretched back to the Renaissance - and probably way before that. Trompe l'oeil effects are to be found amongst the ruins of Pompeii, and Giotto - on a visit to another artist's studio - is reputed to have painted a fly on another artist's work while his back was turned, and then enjoyed watching the frustrated painter trying to kill it. Here, Mantegna uses the recently-discovered linear perspective technique to decorate the ceiling of the Camera Picta (Painted Room) of his patron Ludovico Gonzaga's Ducal Palace in Mantua with a trompe l'oeil fresco:
And that is all the art history you're getting. Here are numerous examples of amusing, delightful (to me at least) eye-deceiving trickery, none of which (as far as I'm aware) are designed to make us question the meaning of life, but seem to have been created simply to please us. The next one - presumably a nod towards C.S. Lewis's Voyage of the Dawn Treader - is by the illustrator and portraitist Tim O'Brien:  
Escaping Criticism, 1874, by Pere Borrell del Caso
I'm not sure I'd get the joke is I were commuting during the rush hour - but this is inventive:
This is how one building on Avenue George V in Paris looked in 2007:
This one beats sticking a mirror on the back of a door to make the room look bigger:
My pre-existing interest in trompe l'oeil art was recently piqued by this painting created for Bells Whiskey by the great book cover illustrator, Tom Adams:
...which harks back to the work of the 17th Century Dutch painter, Samuel van Hoogstraten: 
I'm not sure where to locate the line between hyper-realistic paintings and genuine trickery. I'm not sure it matters. I'd classify most of the illustrations on this page as craft rather than art - they make us marvel at the expertise involved, the technique, rather than leave us pondering the Nature of Reality or the Meaning of Life. They're more magic tricks: we're not supposed to go on mistaking what we're seeing for reality - apart from our initial startlement, the pleasure comes from being baffled t how the artist/magician achieved the effect - as with Christopher Harrison's keys:
Or the same artist's vases, pots and plates:
And again:
Or the extraordinarily convincing cat in Marina Dieul's Le ballon rouge (although the mouse with the balloon rather gave it away):
Or the girl in Zeng Chuanxing's Paper Bride:
A 1996 mosaic created by Gary Drostle to be found - believe it or not - in Croydon (albeit now in a sad state of disrepair):
From Italy:
London (I think):
I'll end with one of the magicians at work - the Italian artist Marcello Barenghi:
Oh, all right - one more:
If you're on Pinterest, I've created a Trompe L'Oeil board

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