Fooling the public’s view with trompe l’oeil

One may wonder what trompe l’œil is all about but if conversant with the French language, it becomes apparent that it means to fool the eye. This style of painting dates back beyond the Renaissance painters and one could suppose that this was artistic attempts to create three dimensional images that appeared to be real. For the history of this style of art, there is a very good article by the Jonsson’s Studio that gives the background information. However, how does this play out on public buildings in today’s world? You may be surprised to learn that it’s more common than you may have thought and every bit as stunning.

The fact is that people still want to see art which tricks the eye. It’s a very clever method of producing something that looks very real indeed, while consisting of artistic impression, rather than actual reality. Examples of this kind of art can be seen all over the world. A great example of this method of painting is the trompe l’œil, or trick to the eye, that was created by Mike Hewson as an eerie reminder of what used to be.

The picture that he produced gives the indication of being a real building, whereas in fact, the building in question was destroyed by an earthquake. It’s very typical of the style of trompe l’œil and shows what might have been going on in that building before it perished. Entitled “Homage to lost spaces” the painting gives a ghostly reminder to onlookers of what used to be.

Another great artist in trompe l’œil images on public buildings is John Pugh whose works include Wonder Wave, Having a Cow and Take a Pew, all of which are on buildings and are drawn to attract attention. These realistic images portray events or simply stunning steps into different places or times. His work is ongoing as reported by the Mail Online, and his comment on the reaction of viewers of that art confirms how real his images appeared to them. “Wow, I thought that was real.” they were reported to have said.

Not every trompe l’œil is on this gigantic scale. Images can be seen in many cities of the world which are every bit as realistic as examples of the art. This image, for example, is one that the writer of this article passes on a regular basis and is simply drawn on the outside of a French building, giving the impression that the occupant is looking out of the window. In Lyon in France, the disaster happening at the end of a parking lot may just distract drivers, but certainly gives an example of trompe l’œil which will draw attention.

No example can give the viewer a fuller impression of what trompe l’oeil paintings on a public building are all about than that created on George V Ave, Paris as the Haussmannian building. The artist employed many different elements which were pieced together to give the overall impression that the building was indeed a cross between a melting facade and a Gaudi creation, with its wonderful curves and bends that have been imitated by wallpaper creations for the average home interior.

When looking at how trompe l’œil is changing, one needs to remember that “realistic” doesn’t have to mean that the picture portrays something real. What is does mean is that the picture portrays something perceived by the viewer to be real. To explain this fully, who would step onto this piece of street art? Although not on a public building, but rather on a public footpath, it does demonstrate the difference between reality and perceived reality. This is the essence of trompe l’œil and what the art is all about.

The deception to the eye created by artists worldwide carries on the great tradition of trompe l’œil in an extremely exciting way.  Look closely when confronted by it. It may not be as realistic as it seems.