News Center

News from the Reed College public affairs office

Search: or

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Media Contact

Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications
503/777-7574
beth.sorensen@reed.edu


Feast the Eye, Fool the Eye: Trompe l'oeil and Still life Paintings from the

PORTAND, OR (February 24, 2005) – Featuring 43 masterpieces of European and American art, Feast the Eye, Fool the Eye: Trompe l'oeil and Still life Paintings from the Oscar and Maria Salzer Collection is on view at Reed College’s Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery from March 8-April 24, 2005. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Public reception: A free public reception for the exhibition will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.on Wednesday, March 23, outside the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery.

Spanning three centuries of art, Feast the Eye, Fool the Eye is drawn from the single finest collection of trompe l’oeil and still life paintings in the United States. The exhibition was organized by the Trust For Museum Exhibitions, Washington, D.C.

The paintings in the Salzer collection offer sensuous glimpses of the interiors, objects, and ephemera of their milieu. Works by European and American artists such as Cornelius Gybrechts (1659–1672), Evert Collier (Dutch, ?-1702), and John F. Peto (American, 1854-1907) invite the viewer to examine complex textual and visual narratives, grounded in the subtleties of the everyday and the allegorical, while at the same time revealing information about the cultures of their time.

"Trompe l’oeil painting is distinguished by several important representational conventions," notes Stephanie Snyder, director of the Cooley Gallery. "In order to create the illusion of an actual space, the scene must be entirely self-contained with the frame of the painting – no partial views of an object or environment are shown, as the digression of the picture would instantly reveal to the view that the space is not an actual one."

Snyder adds that trompe l’oeil paintings "are almost always painted at life-size, reinforcing the illusion that the viewer has rather miraculously stumbled upon a collection of ephemera, a taxonomic specimen, or a small art work tacked to the wall." She notes that one of the most captivating elements of the genre is the representation of other paintings, drawings, engravings, and stamps – works of art within works of art.

Certain themes are common to both still life and trompe l’oeil painting. The ancient theme of Vanitas was widely explored to express the ephemeral nature of worldly pleasures and the inevitability of death. The Flemish artist Cornelius Gybrechts (1659–1672) painted vanitas still lifes, creating the illusion of objects painted on a canvas, usually with a torn corner or other clue to reveal the act of representation. Gybrechts used a convention known as the cartellino — the representation of a small paper card containing the artist's signature. These cards were typically rendered as old and creased, often with a bent corner. Several excellent examples of this convention exist in Feast the Eye.

The representation of textured surfaces such as wood, fabric, and other works of art were considered stellar feats, as in Evert Collier’s Wall Arrangement, 1698, depicting a collection of the artist’s personal effects suspended on a wall board behind leather straps. Collier displays his exceptional skill in rendering the delicate typography of his day on letters, newspapers and other printed matter. Artists such as Collier represented the objects and ephemera of everyday life, painstakingly reproducing handwriting, musical notation and the tiniest of objects such as feathers, tacks, and dots of wax.

History of trompe l’oeil
Trompe l’oeil is one of the oldest documented forms of painting. The history of trompe l’oeil painting begins with Pliny’s Natural History, in which Pliny the Elder recounts the story of a famous rivalry (c. 400 B.C.E.) between the Greek artists Zeuxis and Parrhasius. During a challenge by Parrhasius to ascertain who could produce the most realistic painting, Zeuxis pulled the drapes from in front of his work, and, according to Pliny, birds flew down from the sky to peck at the grapes depicted by the master painter. Zeuxis then turned to Parrhasius in triumph, asking him to draw the curtains from his work and reveal his painting. However, the drapes Zeuxis was referring to were actually part of Parrhasius’ work, and Parrhasius emerged the victor. "Trompe l’oeil paintings are almost always painted at life-size," notes Snyder. "And one of the most captivating elements of the genre is the representation of other paintings, drawings, engravings, and stamps—works of art within works of art."

Trompe l’oeil continued to flourish in the astonishing frescoes of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which also provide evidence for ancient artists’ deep interest in representation and illusion, primarily in fresco painting and tile work. As the Roman Empire declined, trompe l'oeil essentially disappeared, resurfacing during the Renaissance, when Italian painter Giotto re-introduced three dimensional conventions c.1300 C.E., providing painters with the techniques necessary to produce realistic still-lifes and trompe l'oeil imagery. Trompe l’oeil and still life painting increased in popularity in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Within this exhibition are outstanding examples from each century by European and American artists.

# # #

Admission to the Cooley Gallery and its exhibitions is always free and open to the public. For information and hours, please visit http://web.reed.edu/gallery or call the gallery information line at 503/777-7790.

For more information or to receive images from the exhibition, please contact Beth Sorensen at 503/777-7574 or at beth.sorensen@reed.edu .

Reed College
Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, is an undergraduate institution of the liberal arts and sciences dedicated to sustaining the highest intellectual standards in the country. With an enrollment of about 1,360 students, Reed ranks third in the undergraduate origins of Ph.D.s in the United States and second in the number of Rhodes Scholars from a liberal arts college (31 since 1915). For more information, visit web.reed.edu .