Tuesday, 11 October 2011


I'm reading Sleights of Mind by neuroscientists Stephen L. Macknick and Susana Martinez-Conde. It is a highly engaging and entertaining double-up between neuroscience and cognitive psychology (think brains, neurons, vision, perception, attention, memory, etc), and magic. Two topics that I have a fond loving for since I was a little kid.

Anyway, here's a nice excerpt on perspective paintings that are life-like (unfortunately nothing to do with magic, but all to do with illusion all the same):

"Artists have been utilizing visual illusions since the fifteenth century, when Renaissance painters invented techniques to trick your brain into thinking that a flat canvas is three-dimensional or that a series of brushstrokes in a still life is a bowl of luscious fruit."

"Trompe l'oeil is a French term that means 'trick the eye'. It flourished in the seventeenth century in the Netherlands. The lifelike pictures appeared to jump from the frame.

An early and perhaps apocryphal example of trompe l'oeil, reported by Pliny the Elder, is the legendary competition between two renowned painters in ancient Greece, Zeuxis and Parrhasios. Each artist brought a covered painting to the contest. When Zeuxis unveiled his work, his painted grapes were so realistic that birds flew from the sky to peck at them. Convinced of his victory, Zeuxis tried to uncover Parrhasios's painting to confirm the superiority of his work. He was defeated, however, because the curtain he tried to pull back was Parrhasios's painting itself."

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