Trompe l'Oeil

Discussions of new films, books, television shows, and media indirectly related to magic and magicians. For example, there may be a book on mnemonics or theatrical technique we should know or at least know about.
Jerry Harrell
Posts: 200
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Norfolk, VA USA

Trompe l'Oeil

Postby Jerry Harrell » January 23rd, 2003, 12:09 pm

Trompe l'Oeil (French for "fool or deceive the eye") describes a style of painting that imitates natural appearances so convincingly that the viewer mistakes the objects depicted for the real thing. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. currently has an exhibition called "Deceptions and Illusions, Five Centuries of Trompe l'Oeil Painting." I think it is a show that every student of the magical arts could benefit from attending, not only because of the astonishingly deceptive art to be found there, but to witness the reactions of the other patrons as they are fooled and delighted by the works.

In addition to the exhibit, the National Gallery is offering a catalog of the exhibition for sale in their gift shop. (Deceptions and Illusions $65) This large 400 page book not only contains all of the wonderful images on display, but also has five very enlightening essays by experts on the subject of Trompe l'Oeil that offer real insights about what it is to be fooled and why we enjoy it so much.

From the book, a quote by Clarence Darrow: "The modern manrelishes a lie, but it must not be too big; it must be so small that, although he knows in his inmost soul that it is not true, he can yet make himself believe it is not false. Most of us have cherished a pleasant waking dream, and fondly clung to the sweet delusion while we really knew it was not life."

The exhibition "Deceptions and Illusions" is on view until March 2nd. Admission is free. More info can be found at the website (

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Richard Kaufman
Posts: 25079
Joined: July 18th, 2001, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Theodore DeLand
Location: Washington DC

Re: Trompe l'Oeil

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 23rd, 2003, 2:12 pm

Jerry, I went to this exhibit with David Blaine prior to his book signing that was mentioned in Genii recently. He and Bill Kalush bought a bunch of the catalogues.
Interestingly, I've written a tiny bit about trompe l'oeil in the March "Genii Speaks" which is now at the printer.
A lengthy article should be written about the areas of commonality between the experience of viewing a trompe l'oeil painting and watching a magic trick.
The exhibit has some breathtaking pieces. One, in particular, involves a framed painting where the glass is broken. Except, of course, there is NO glass, the broken glass is merely part of the painting. It is an illusion as convincing as anything any magician has ever done.
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John Tudor
Posts: 120
Joined: June 25th, 2008, 10:06 pm
Location: Columbia, SC

Re: Trompe l'Oeil

Postby John Tudor » March 27th, 2003, 8:46 am

>>>A lengthy article should be written about the areas of commonality between the experience of viewing a trompe l'oeil painting and watching a magic trick.

The May issue of MAGIC will have a profile of trompe l'oeil artist/magician Christian Thee. ( It will include some background on this style of painting, as well as Thee's work (including the invention of what's now known as the Jumbo Sidekick) and his home, which is full of one of a kind trompe l'oeil magic trick artworks.
We hope you enjoy it.
"Ars longa, vita brevis." (Life is short, the art so long to learn) -Hippocrates

John Tudor

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