Thursday, February 18, 2010

MIA Three Work Theme: The Illusion of Layers and Texture

I have always been extremely impressed by the masters painters and their ability to create the illusion of textures and layers without physically making the texture they want.

If I was creating an installation with the Illusion of Layers and Texture theme, I would grab people's attention by starting with Chuck Close's "Frank." This piece is very bold and impressive. For my entire childhood I thought this was actually a photograph. when, in reality, it is just a very realistic painting in black and white. Close uses large scale and high detail in small brush strokes to create the illusion of hair and skin textures. This is a contemporary piece that would normally never be seen next to the other works I have chosen. When placed near the others, the viewer is forced to look at it in a new way. Those technical achievements were important before, and they still have a powerful impact today.

The next piece would be Nicolas de Largilliere's "Portrait of Catherine Coustard, Marquise of Castlenow, wife of Charles Leonor Aubry with her son Leonor" (1699). It is done in oil on canvas and the fabric of their clothes is completely lifelike. The blue velvet of her dress has always drawn my attention. It looks like you could reach out and feel the soft velvet. You can see every tiny direction change and light reflection. This is all done with flat, smooth oil paint.

I would follow that up with "I know a Maiden fair to see, take care" by Charles Edward Perugini in 1868. This is just another example of the realistically painted fabric, but it was painted later Catherine Coustard, and the material appears to be silky rather than velvet. This is a more romantic and emotional piece than "Frank" or "Catherine Coustard." It is also much smaller. The illusion has much less space to do its work. The viewer cannot just stand far back and get the idea of silk or satin. They need to come up closer, and that makes achieveing that illusion much more diffecult.
Last, I would show "The Veiled Lady" by Raffaelo Monti in 1860. When you look at it from far away, you would think that this marble bust actually has a sheer veil over her face. This sculpture has the shape or texture of neither a face nor a veil, but somehow we can see both. There appears to be two layers here when there is really only one.

These works progress from the cold and technical exicution of illusion to a romantic and expressive method. The peices can convey a soft and silky feeling using tone, light, and color; not just reprodution.


  1. I would love to see those pieces in the way you described, I would have never thought about those pieces in that way.

  2. That last piece is amazing, and I love that you included it. It really does seem to be the definitive piece in your show and beautifully shows this illusion of layers and texture.