“Our senses can be trusted, but they can be easily fooled”(Aristotle 1)What is an optical illusion? For most of us, the term brings to mind images
of a unique arrangement of vibrant contrasting colors, and geometric shapes that
deceive the eye, and violates our expectations in a myriad of ways “about
representation, about shape, about color, and so forth”(Sekel). Figure 1 is one
common example of this definition. In this image the circles appear to be
expanding when in fact the image is static. Another example of an optical illusion
would be Claude Monet’s painting Rue Montorgueil in Paris, Festival of 30 June
1878(Figure 3), which illustrates a scene of a festive street, but most people do not
connect Monet’s Rue Montorgueil in Paris, Festival of 30 June 1878 with optical
illusions. They fail to realize that all art is an optical illusion. A painting is really
nothing more than one great optical illusion, “something that deceives by
producing a false or misleading impression of reality” (Optical illusion 1).
When you look at a painting you see a scene, a moment. You look at the
painting as a whole , not distinguishing the different elements, and seeing how
they all come together to create an optical illusion. What we see in Monet’s Rue
Montorgueil in Paris, Festival of 30 June 1878 is not really a street, buildings,
people, flags; it is a mess of color. It is our memories, our experiences, that
transform that mess of color into a street lined with buildings and crowded with
people, into a moment.
In order to recognize how all works of art are optical illusions it is
essential to understand the visual system-shown in Figure 5, which is the…
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