Cubism and the Trompe l’Oeil Tradition

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Date(s): Nov 24, 2020 – Feb 21, 2021
Location: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028, United States

This exhibition will offer a radically new view of Cubism by demonstrating its engagement with the age-old tradition of trompe l’oeil painting. A self-referential art concerned with the nature of representation, trompe l’oeil (“deceive the eye”) beguiles the viewer with perceptual and psychological games that complicate definitions of truth and fiction. Many qualities seen as distinct to Cubism were, in fact, exploited by trompe l’oeil masters over the centuries: the emphatically shallow picture plane; the invasion of the “real” world into the pictorial one; the mimicry of materials; and the inclusion of new print media and advertising replete with coded references to artist, patron, and current events. In a contest of creative one-upmanship, the Cubists Georges Braque, Juan Gris, and Pablo Picasso both parodied classic trompe l’oeil devices and invented new ways of confounding the viewer in their still lifes. Along with Cubist paintings, sculpture, and works on paper, the exhibition will present examples of trompe l’oeil over three hundred years: from Dutch, Flemish, Spanish, and French seventeenth-century art to late ninteteenth century American painting.

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