Monday, February 6, 2012

This is not a photograph...

Whew!  Last week was heavy with complicated questions and thoughts on this blog: thoughts about elitism in art history, appropriate use of public spaces, and sexist objectification in paintings.  Today's post should be much more relaxed and fun.

Tromp l'oeil (i.e. trick the eye)

Andrea Mantegna, Camera degli Sposi, Mantua, fresco, 1471-74

This might be one of the most famous examples of tromp l'oeil in the Renaissance (Tromp l'oeil was a favorite Renaissance style -they were really into capturing challenging perspectives back then). Don't be fooled; this ceiling is actually flat.  

Johann Heinrich Füssli, Tromp l'oeil, oil on canvas, 1750, currently at Ermitage, St. Petersburg

Some things just don't go out of style, and tromp l'oeil is something that has successfully thrilled viewers for centuries.  There's a whole sub-genre of paintings that are meant to look like other art and paper forms, like the painting above.  I find I have to remind myself that this is in fact a painting of a sketch tacked to a wooden board, and not a real sketch tacked to a wooden board.    

After the invention of the camera in the 1839 and the beginning of its widespread popularity in the second half of the nineteenth century, theorists predicted an end to ultra-realistic types of paintings, realism in paintings had been usurped by photography.  Luckily, this was not the case, and there was a revival, (and updating) of tromp l'oeil in the art movement photorealism that began in the 1970s.  

Richard Estes, Bus Interior, 1981, currently at Smithsonian American Art Museum


  1. I've never seen these personally, but some of the remarkable street art fits into the tromp l'oeil theme.

    3D sidewalk art:
    Banksy's "graffiti" (such as reported here):

    - abba

    1. Thanks so so much for these links. I'd seen them before, and actually as I was daydreaming about this post a couple of days before I wrote it, I had intended to include sidewalk art. But it ended up being written on a busy Sunday night, and the sidewalk art totally slipped my mind. So thanks again for making the connection.