Saturday, April 9, 2005

Mistake the Eye!

...or as it's better known, trompe l'oeil.

Took the family to see an exhibition of 'trompe l'oeil' paintings being exhibited at a local college gallery. It was a small exhibit, but with some interesting pieces.

From the art lexicon:

A French term literally meaning "trick the eye." Sometimes called illusionism, it's a style of painting which gives the appearance of three-dimensional, or photographic realism. It flourished from the Renaissance onward. The discovery of linear perspective in fifteenth-century Italy and advancements in the science of optics in the seventeenth-century Netherlands enabled artists to render object and spaces with eye-fooling exactitude. Both playful and intellectually serious, trompe artists toy with spectators' seeing to raise questions about the nature of art and perception.

An example:

Anyhoo, a good exhibit for us computer graphics buffs, to remind us that long before Phong, Gouraud, and BRDF's, people were thinking about how photons bounce off things and excite them, before finally exciting our optic nerves.

An observation, from an art neophyte: Trompe l'oeil paintings fall into 3 categories of subject matter:

  • Still lifes of cards, letters, dollar bills, or other such objects. I'd imagine this is because they are thin and can be painted in realistic "3D"fashion will not having parallax/depth incontinuities break the illusion.
  • Still lifes involving glass (pitches, glasses), and grapes. Because realisticly depicting how light plays of these is a great show of artistic manliness amongst trompe l'oeil artists.
  • Still lifes involving various post-humous critters fresh from the taxidermist. Umm... I guess because they were easy to paint, given that they wouldn't move and all?

One thing I wondered: I am curious whether the type/direction/etc of lighting in the gallery has a role in how realistic the painting looks. For example, if it's a painting of a bookshelf with shadows coming from sunlight above and to the left, does it help if the sun is really coming from that direction? hmm...

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