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Cubism and the Trompe l’Oeil Tradition

October 20, 2022–January 22, 2023
Previously on view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 199
Free with Museum admission

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.

To access the booklet of all in-gallery labels, click here.

The exhibition is made possible by the Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore Foundation.

Additional support is provided by the Gail and Parker Gilbert Fund, the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust, an Anonymous Foundation, the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund, and the Janice H. Levin Fund.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

The catalogue is made possible by the Mellon Foundation.

We thank the many lenders for their exceptional generosity, with special acknowledgment to the Musée National Picasso-Paris and the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

This exhibition is a participant in the international Celebration Picasso 1973–2023, which marks the fiftieth anniversary of the artist’s death.

Join the exhibition’s curators Emily Braun and Elizabeth Cowling for a virtual tour of Cubism and the Trompe l’Oeil Tradition, which offers a radically new view of Cubism by demonstrating its engagement with the age-old tradition of trompe l’oeil painting.

Latest reviews

Eye-bending, wonderfully frisky

The New York Times

Cubism and the Trompe l’Oeil Tradition at The Metropolitan Museum sparkles

Financial Times

The show makes clear how often, and how faithfully, the Cubists paged through the past to learn such techniques of wizardry. . . . Prompts us to reconsider what we thought we knew

The New York Sun
Marquee: L-R: Georges Braque (French, 1882–1963). Violin and Sheet Music: “Petit Oiseau,” early 1913. Oil and charcoal on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection. © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris; William Michael Harnett (American, (1848–1892). Still Life—Violin and Music, 1888. Oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund (63.85)