THE BLOG
10/16/2013 10:34 am ET Updated Dec 16, 2013

Paris Journal III: Tromp L'Oeil

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Tromp L'oeil: Imitations, Pastiches et Autre Illusions at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs begins with the following inscription from Cocteau's Les Parents Terribles, "Combien d'hommes profondement distraits penetrereent dans trompe l'oiel et ne son pas revenues" ("how many deeply absent-minded men fall into tromp l'oil and don't return"). Is that like one of those warnings about explicitly subject matter that you find at the entrance to certain shows? One of the early pieces in the exhibit is "Armoire Surrealist" (l941) whose doors literally open up into a vision of cloud filled skies. "Un matiere peut en cache en autre" (a material with which one can capture another) is one of the subcategories with the example of "Plat Faux Bois" by Granjean Jourdain (l955) as an early example. "Le Masque d'homme barbu dit Agamemenon" is an example of the use of the use of tromp l'oeil in imitating gold. Tromp l'oeil obviously occupies a long and venerable place in art history, particularly in so far as perspective is concerned. But as a decorative technique it's a kind of hands on surrealism, a practical application of surrealist technique. Hence, you have a Legumier made up of tromp l'oeil asparagus which house the real thing and then an even more enchanting plate of snakes. Snakes might seem more like something in the diet of an Andre Breton or Salvador Dali. Remember Un Chien Andalou with its violent and improbably associations? But they're popular in China where this unique piece of dinnerware would undoubtedly find a huge following.

(Photograph: Hallie Cohen)

{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}

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