Friday, October 21, 2011

WEEK #30 / Four Maple Leaves Taped To a Wall

Four Maple Leaves Taped to a Wall
James Aponovich
oil on panel, 10" x 8", 2011


This painting is a concept study for an inset panel in a commissioned piece of furniture. It will ultimately be painted on an oval and bet set into the pediment of the White Mountain Breakfront, a collaboration with the New Hampshire Furniture Master, David Lamb. (see week #16)
The leaves have a symbolic meaning known only to the patron. I wanted these leaves to appear as real as I could so one would think that they are actually attached to the piece of furniture. I went to a style of painting that the French call Trompe-l'oeil, fool the eye.


Realism is the rendering of textural qualities of an object according to formal Western artistic concepts, such as value modeling (chiaroscuro). An essential factor in obtaining the illusion of reality is conveying a credible sense of space. When objects are painted in this space the tactile surface of the picture disappears and the painting becomes it's own world. It becomes an illusionistic piece.


There is a tacit agreement between the viewer and the painting that acknowledges that it is a fictive world. To enter this pictured world is an act of volition by the viewer and one is led by the realism of details and the construction of space to accept ( or not) the illusion of reality. To put it another way, when we attend the movies, we know it is not real but we allow ourselves to be absorbed as if it were real. We have a visual dialogue.
In Trompe l'oeil there is none of this. That is to say the main purpose of most "trompe" paintings is to immediately convince you that it is real, not a painting. If you have to feel the surface to determine that yes, it is a painting then the artist wins! It's a hoax. This is why the "trompe" style is frowned upon by critics, it is entertainment.
The problem for me comes in when I realize how difficult it is to paint in this style. I have to bring all my experience and knowledge to carry it across and still I fall short. It's really hard!

William Harnett
The Faithful Colt
oil on canvas, 22" x 28", 1890

My fascination with all this began when I was standing in front of this painting by the American painter William Harnett. I knew that painting a gun on a barn wall was kind of trite but I experienced something quite unique, my eyes felt good looking at the surface! There was a definite sense of physical joy in just observing the details.

William Harnett
Mr. Hurlings Rack Picture
oil on canvas, 30" x 25", 1888

Harnett is the acknowledged master of this form of still life. There is a shallow depth of field and an "over the top" rendering of detail. There is more. This piece has an abstraction and visual energy that predates the great art movements of the 20th Century. It is well worth a look.
Fool me once, shame on you,
Fool me twice, shame on me.

copyright 2011 James Aponovich


  1. James
    I was not fooled but throughly enjoyed by this week's painting..
    the weeks are more exciting with your postings...
    Thank you for this delight

  2. Marge,
    I appreciate your kind comment and thanks for following along !