The MMFA Presents Trompe L'Oeil: The Art of Illusion

The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is proud to present Trompe L'Oeil: The Art of Illusion, which will be on view from Saturday, October 7 through Sunday, December 3, 2006.

The art of trompe l'oeil has fooled the eye for many centuries. During the time of the Roman Empire, the illusion of food droppings cleverly integrated into mosaic floor tiles was considered the true beginning of this phenomenon. Throughout time, artists of exceptional ability have worked in this visual idiom to challenge their painting virtuosity. In a sense, a trompe l'oeil Artist is a magician with paint.

In the nineteenth century, American artists such as William Harnett, John Frederick Peto and John Haberle amongst others developed a very American approach to trompe l'oeil and Americans embraced their efforts with great praise, critical acceptance and much curiosity. America in the nineteenth and early twentieth century seemed to be hungry for amusement and contented with viewing paintings of aesthetic appeal. American trompe l'oeil painters seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Also there seems to have been a common thread prevalent amongst the early American trompe l'oeil painters. Their work focused on commonplace objects and their paintings were always technically brilliant. With the introduction of non-objective, abstract art in the early part of the twentieth century, trompe l'oeil artists had to meet a new challenge. The American public began to view art on a new and unorthodox level, which went beyond realism. It was a time of shock and re-education not only in art but also in all aspects of American culture.

It was the beginning of the technological revolution and art had to keep up with the fast pace of this new and exciting time. Trompe L'Oeil artists have weathered the storm and have passed the test of time with flying colors as this exhibition demonstrates. A number of contemporary trompe l'oeil artists have chosen to carry on the true tradition of this school of painting while others have forged their own path by injecting new life into this time honored art form.

Today, the challenge of trompe l'oeil artists is to bridge the gap between modern art and realism while upholding the basic principles of this genre (objects life size and inanimate). This is not an easy task. It requires a clear understanding of the principles of abstract painting and how this philosophy can be applied to trompe l'oeil. A handful of artists have met this challenge with great success thus proving a point. You do not have to abandon realism to be creative. In fact, contemporary trompe l'oeil artists are a very creative group attuned with the times. Their work can be appreciated on many levels beyond the illusion factor.

Fourteen of America's leading trompe l'oeil artists have brought together sixty-five works for this major exhibition. Artists represented are Larry Charles, Donald Clapper, Eric L. Conklin, Ken Davies, Gary T. Erbe, Michael Gallarda, Gerald P. Hodge, Michael Molnar, Michael Riddet, Barbara Stadtlander (1928-1987), Gayle B. Tate, Michael Theise, Debra Teare and Gregory West.

This exhibition will challenge the viewers' imagination while pleasing the viewers' eye. Many of the works go beyond aesthetics elevating this wonderful art form to a new level of creativity. Trompe L'Oeil is moving along with the times and yet is deeply rooted to its past. T

he showing here in Montgomery is part of a twelve city national tour over a two and a half year period containing sixty five paintings. The tour was developed and managed by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, an exhibition tour development company in Kansas City, Missouri.

For more information, please contact the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts at 334.240.4333 or visit