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History of the optical illusions in Art. 




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Street Art and Trompe-l'oeil. The Surrealists of the street.

 
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History of the optical illusions in Art.

An optical illusion is a distorted perception of the field of vision, been dependant on physiological and psychological mechanisms.

There exist many examples in which our perception seems to induce erroneous information on our environment. When they relate to the sight, these deformations are called optical illusions.

The human being became aware for a very long time that it was prone to visual illusions. As of Antiquity, philosophers and large thinkers (Euclide, Vitruve, Plato, Aristote, etc) studied the optical impressions which they felt. The architects of ancient Greece, in their work, compensated for the illusions related to the prospect, among the most famous examples, one can quote the temple of the Parthenon and the column of Trajan.

So very early the knowledge of the illusions structures about it was used like subterfuge, in order to give to the buildings a satisfactory appearance for the eye, in painting the elaborate representation of the prospect came much later. They are the artists of Florence who endeavoured to give to painting a scientific base, by integrating what one then knew of the laws of the vision. Leonardo da Vinci, the first, stated the laws and the principles of the prospect in his “notebooks”, as well as anamorphoses : drawings of an object appearing deformed, which, seen under a certain angle or via an optical system, take again an aspect not deformed of this object.

The Ambassadors is the most famous painting of Holbein the Young. He represents Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve, envoys of François the Ist, cranium laid out between the two men, in the center of the scene, is painted in anamorphosis : he is recognizable only of one point located on the right, practically in the plan of the painting.

At the XVIIe century, the science of anamorphoses makes new great strides in France thanks to the theorists of the prospect, the more so as a new instrument, the mirror, makes its appearance about 1615 and then allows deformations and reformations even more daring.

A great number of simple geometrical figures, grouped under the collective name of geometrical optical illusions, were conceived in order to show and to test the illusions of visual perception. In animation opposite the 6 lines are of the same dimension and parallels. Note at which point the appearance of the obliques disorientates us.

The optical illusions bring into play errors in estimation of dimension, direction, orientation and the shape of certain elements the component. And sometimes the brain, by reflex, generates what the eye cannot see. There is no circle represented on the figure opposite only of the squares. How much circles do you see ? Where ? 


In the Illusion of Muller-Lyer the straight line from the top with internal inflections appears shorter than that of bottom with external inflections. 


In the figure of Wundt the parallels appear to diverge. 

The vertical lines do not appear to be parallel in the illusion of Zollner.
Illusion of Ehrenstein: the sides of the square circumscribed in the circles appear deformed and concave outwards. 
Illusion of Sander: diagonal AB appears shorter than diagonal BC, whereas they have the same length. 
Illusion of “T” reversed: the vertical line appears longer than the horizontal one, whereas they have the same length. 
Contamination : In the figure opposite the circle has seems smaller than the circle B whereas are the same ones. The circles laid out at sides, larger or smaller, induce us in error. 
We know that the oblique lines repeated induce a direction of reading of the image, if we change brutally feel obliques the spectator with the illusion of the movement or relief. This principle is valid in all the directions of reading and produces a whole series of spectacular optical illusions.
Very contrasted zones if they are close produce seizing effects and what is valid for contrasts clearly obscure is also for the color. The circles and the spirals induce a syphoning and of movement. They are frightening figures with regard to the optical illusions.
Especially in large size and color. While increasing the image you will realize that the image produces important distortions of our direction of the vision. The feelings are not always pleasant. 
Certain images cause an effect of rotation of distortion of movement and diving especially in large size. This green fluo and this purple strident are complementary colors. These colors are opposite on the chromatic circle. They contrast violently. Each figure has such an opposite direction of torsion different them. All this generates an image which is far from being stable. The painters always do not seek the stability of the reason. Vincent Van Gogh using a multitude of oblique features and colors complementary gives rhythm to these works which seem animated. 
The optical illusions generate also sometimes errors of intepretation. 
On does this image opposite it seem that the balls of the top rest on the checkerwork, and that on that of in lower part they are in levitation ? Not. In fact the balls is at the same place on the same boxes they are the grayed ovals, that our brain compares to shades, which give the illusion of a change of position. It is well here about a question of interpretation.
How much legs has this elephant ? 

Impossible Figures : 
It is the Dutch engraver Maurits Cornelius Escher (1898-1972) who popularized through his works the “impossible figures”, figures which one could believe, at first sight, who they correspond to real objects, but which actually can exist only in drawing or photomontage.

The optical illusion created by the impossible figures is explained by the fact why the eye concentrates only on part of the figure and not on its totality. For example, by separately analysing the two ends of the three-pronged fork, one can see, on a side, his three points and, other, an elbow of square section; it is only by observing the figure as a whole which one realizes that it is incoherent and impossible to obtain in reality: the tooth of the medium is impossible to locate since she is seen on different levels according to whether one looks at on the left or on the right.

Trompe-l'oeil is a pictorial technique which seeks to give the illusion of reality. Trompe-l'oeil makes it possible to perceive in relief an object, a landscape drawn on a flat support. 

Varying according to the times and the modes, this technique was used much by the Greek and Roman painters. With the Rebirth, rich person frequently ordered complex and required trompe-l'oeil paintings. The walls of whole parts could be decorated with artifices of prospect, with doors and windows painted in trompe-l'oeil, giving on a landscape, a sky or characters. The ceilings were also decorated, for example, angels with balconies which looked at people of an amused air. 

Trompe-l'oeil knew a renewal at the XIXe century with Still Lifes of the American painter William Harnett. In his Still Lifes in trompe-l'oeil, the American William Harnett succeeds in revealing daily objects, more particularly of the books, newspapers, instruments and partitions of music, like true objects in three dimensions.

Our day the artists of Street Art or Art of the street always use Trompe-l'oeil to produce effects seizing and thus they carry out performances in the street or of the public places. The spectators are often astonished by this art of spectacular which is not stripped of charm nor of humor. 

Many painters incorporated visual illusions in their work, like Magritte, Dalí, Vasarely, Yvaral and of course the school of Op art.

Op Art is the abbreviation of English optical art, this term indicates a tendency of the kinetic art founded on the exploration of the virtual movement by the only means of the optical dynamism of the forms and the colors.
Optical art is based on the knowledge of certain extreme perceptive phenomena, tested as of the end of the year twenty by Josef Albers and its students of Bauhaus and by Victor Vasarely in his work of pre-war period. It is around the latter and of the Denise-Rene gallery that the first artists of this tendency gather, with Jesús Raphael Soto, Yaacov Agam, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Luis Tomasello, Julio le Park, Yvaral. 
Certain aspects off the work off François Morellet are attached to it, while Bridget Riley and Jeffrey Steele exposes in Great Britain and Richard Anuszkiewicz to the United States. 
Their research has jointly not to leave the plan or the relief in weak projection, on which they try out the phenomena of retinal instability generated by the superposition of screens, the programmed repetition of small modular units, and contrasts of values violent one, in particular that of the white and the black. Their works often claim the active participation of the spectator, would be this only by its simple displacement.

Oleg Shuplyak is an Ukrainian painter specialist in the optical illusions. These paintings are composed of landscapes in which the face of a person arises thanks to the elements of the decoration. They are generally famous people.
The photographer Siegfried Hansen takes photographs in the street while making use of the lines and the geometrical forms available. The result is often surprising.