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Cubism and the Trompe l’Oeil Tradition

Braun, Emily, and Elizabeth Cowling, with contributions by Claire Le Thomas and Rachel Mustalish (2022)

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Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (5)
Exhibition
Cubism and the Trompe l’Oeil Tradition
October20, 2022–January22, 2023

This exhibition will offer a radically new view of Cubism by demonstrating its engagement with the age-old tradition of trompe l’oeil painting. A self-referential art concerned with the nature of representation, trompe l’oeil (“deceive the eye”) beguiles the viewer with perceptual and psychological games that complicate definitions of truth and fiction. Many qualities seen as distinct to Cubism were, in fact, exploited by trompe l’oeil specialists over the centuries: the emphatically flat picture plane; the invasion of the “real” world into the pictorial one; the mimicry of materials; and the inclusion of new print media and advertising replete with coded references to artist, patron, and current events. In a contest of creative one-upmanship, the Cubists Georges Braque, Juan Gris, and Pablo Picasso both parodied classic trompe l’oeil devices and invented new ways of confounding the viewer. Along with Cubist paintings, sculptures, and collages, the exhibition will present canonical examples of European and American trompe l’oeil painting from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries.