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Illusion in Painting

An Attempt at Philosophical Interpretation


Mateusz Salwa

This book aims to present trompe-l’œil painting, which epitomizes the myth of the illusionistic image – an early modern way of thinking about pictures, according to which it is possible to create an image identical to what it represents that at the same time preserves its own pictorial identity. Trompe-l’œil, despite being a marginal genre, embodied an ideal that painting should attain, and therefore is a good point of departure for analyzing issues such as (aesthetic) illusion in art. As the myth undermines Plato’s aesthetics, it is his philosophy of art, with its dichotomies of appearance/reality or mimesis/diegesis that offers the most useful context for the discussion of this topic and shows that trompe-l’œil is a playful and ironic genre, which has cognitive value as well.
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VI. Conclusion


There is no categorical imperative of illusion, but neither there is one against it.1

1. Social convention, artistic convention

Sterling, in his classical work devoted to the still life thus characterises the artistic status of trompe-l’oeil painting:

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