OPTICAL ILLUSIONS: The Art of Deception of Perception Essay

“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

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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…

…eki.” Encyclop?dia Britannica. Encyclop?dia Britannica Online. Encyclop?dia Britannica, 2011. Web. 11 Mar. 2011. .

Simanek, Donald E. “THE PRINCIPLES OF ARTISTIC ILLUSIONS.” . Dec. 1996. . 12 Feb. 2011 .

Sturgis, Alexander. Optical Illusions in Art: Or–Discover How Paintings Aren’t Always What They Seem To Be. New York City: Sterling Publishing Company, 2003.

“VISUAL SYSTEM.” Neuro-Opthalmology. Web. 11 Mar 2011. .

“The Woodhull Lecture 1995 Visual Art and the Visual Brain.” Web. 25 Feb. 2011. .

Zeki, Semir. Inner Vision : An Exploration of Art and the Brain . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.


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