Technique Tuesday: Trompe-l’oeil

What is it?

If you read last week’s Technique Tuesday post about Realism, you already got a sneak peek at the fun that is trompe-l’oeil! A French term which translates to “deceive the eye,” trompe-l’oeil is a technique that creates an optical illusion that what is painted or drawn is actually three-dimensional. Even very realistically rendered paintings can still retain the qualities of two-dimensionality; it’s those sneaky trompe-l’oeil pieces that make you do a double take!

Examples from art history:

Trompe-l’oeil has been around a very long time, in both paintings and murals, but with the advances made during the Renaissance in rendering things as three dimensional, it really started to take off. Many early trompe-l’oeil works were painted as ceiling paintings and frescoes (murals), and by the 15th and 16th centuries, illusionistic ceiling paintings were very popular–all the grandeur of a domed ceiling without the architectural hassle! With the rise in popularity of Flemish and later Dutch still life painting during the Baroque period, trompe-l’oeil still life painting became especially popular. It was a technique also frequently used (and still is!) to create sets for the theater, giving the impression that the space on the stage is much deeper than it is.

AH TLO collage
(left) Pere Borrell del Caso, “Escaping Criticism” 1874; (middle) Fresco with trompe l’œil dome painted on low vaulting, Jesuit Church, Vienna, by Andrea Pozzo, 1703; (right) Cornelis Norbertus Gysbrechts, “Trompe-l’oeil of Open Glazed Cupboard Door with Numerous Papers and Objects” 1666

Examples from Principle Gallery and the International Guild of Realism:

At Principle Gallery, when we think of trompe-l’oeil, one artist immediately comes to mind: Jorge Alberto. I can personally attest to how skillful Jorge is when it comes to tricking the eye– more than once, I’ve been convinced one of his paintings was framed (even labeling it “framed” in our inventory) when it was in reality just a painted frame! His talent is truly incredible, and you can check out all his available work here. Pssst: none of the images below show actual matting or frames–that’s all paint!

Alberto Collage
Jorge Alberto, “Gone Fishing”, “Flaming Queen”, “Plums on the Vine”, “Just Another Pear”

As you may already know, Principle Gallery is hosting this year’s 10th Annual Juried Exhibition for the International Guild of Realism. The show officially opens August 28th, and will include 91 paintings and drawings from 82 incredibly talented artists, many of whom enjoy working with the trompe-l’oeil technique! Here are just a few examples of the many trompe-l’oeil pieces included in the exhibition (click to view larger):

IGOR TLO Collage
(left to right) Jorge Alberto, “The Swan”; Leslie Junkin Fornalik, “Da Vinci’s Compass”; George Gonzalez, “The Tortoise, the Hare, and the Chocolate Bunny”; Elizabeth Weiss, “And Yet She Flies”

Keep an eye out over the coming weeks for more exciting previews of the IGOR exhibition! If you’d like a digital preview of the whole show when it is available, just shoot us an email at and let us know!

3 thoughts on “Technique Tuesday: Trompe-l’oeil

  1. Principle, We are so looking forward to the exhibit. Would you provide me details on the Elizabeth Weiss piece “and yet she flies?” Thanks, Stuart

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s