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Artists need to be Masters of Deception – True or False?

Jan Van Huysum Still Life

Jan Van Huysum Still life of Grapes and a peach on a table top

When you look at this painting by Jan Van Huysum what do you think makes it work?

Q Is it the apparent realism of the subject matter, the fruit looks juicy and real and ready to pick, or is it the composition, the positioning of the light source, or colour choices, or even the textures?

I think it works because the artist has succeeded in fooling us, the viewers, into believing that the fruit are really there, on the table, full of juice and ready for plucking!

Don’t the green grapes appear to be in front of the Black ones, and the other fruits? The leaves at the top also appear to be behind everything else in the painting. Of course it was actually painted onto a flat piece of stretched canvas or board using oil paints at the end of the 17th Century. The artists skills of deception are clearly working here, the use of strong light in the foreground allows strong rich and warmer colours to appear to bring forward the green grapes and orange fruits and these help the darker fruits and leaves to recede into the distance.

Clever isn’t it!

Deception – is the language of the artist. It’s their job to make us feel we are in the painting, ready to pick the fruit. Similarly with a landscape, the use of aerial perspective, sends the mountains back into the distance and a closer focal point will be painted with stronger colours and sharper lines to catch the eye and draw the viewer into the painting and allow them to be enveloped by it.

Llanberis Pass North Wales.

Llanberis Pass, Snowdonia, North Wales Watercolour

Its no secret that during the war, artists were selected to design fake vehicles, tracked tanks, aircraft and artillery etc. to fool the enemy and also to design camoflage schemes, to hide troops in the field, and even battleships whilst at sea. One of those artists was Edward Seago. Another venue for the artists skills of deception is the theatre, where the sets have to present vast open landscapes, or huge Egyptian temples, yet they are frequently located on a small stage with many differing lines of sight, from up in the gods, down to the front stalls, and even in the boxes at the sides. If you want to study perspective and how it can fool the viewer, get invloved with your local theatre, climb on the stage and see deception at first hand. The artists skills there will amaze you.