Trompe l'Oeil in American Art


(above: Boston Trompe l'Oeil, 2021. Photo by John Hazeltine)



This section of the Traditional Fine Arts Organization (TFAO) catalogue Topics in American Art is devoted to the topic "Trompe l'Oeil in American Art." Articles and essays specific to this topic published in TFAO's Resource Library are listed at the beginning of the section. Clicking on titles takes readers directly to these articles and essays. The date at the end of each title is the Resource Library publication date.

We recommend that readers search within the TFAO website to find detailed information for any topic. Please see our page How to research topics not listed for more information.

Next are links to valuable online resources found outside our website. Links may be to museums' articles about exhibits, plus much more topical information based on our online searches.

Following online resources is information about offline resources including museums, DVDs, and paper-printed books, journals and articles.


Articles and essays from Resource Library in chronological order:

Introduction for Otis Kaye Catalog by Douglas Hyland (3/18/15)

The Life of Otis Kaye - Notes for a Future Biographer; essay by James M. Bradburne and Geraldine Banks (3/18/15)

Reflections of Otis Kaye; essay by James M. Bradburne (3/18/15)

False Documents & Other Illusions (11/23/10)

John Haberle: American Master of Illusion (11/12/10)

Reality Check: Contemporary American Trompe l'Oeil (10/6/10)

Gary T. Erbe: Forty Year Retrospective (10/19/09)

John Haberle: Museum Accession; article by Harriet G. Warkel (7/29/09)

Illusions in Art for Young Eyes: Paintings by Eric Conklin (12/8/08)

Trompe l'Oeil: The Art of Illusion; article by Louis A. Zona and Gary T. Erbe  (5/16/05)

The American Renaissance: Cosmopolitanism and the New American Art; essay by Stephanie Street (2/1/05)

Trompe l'oeil Exhibitions at Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum (4/22/03)

Collecting American Art - The Rubin Collection, essay by William H. Gerdts (4/9/03)

David Brega and Douglas Brega: Oil & Water (7/31/00)


From other websites:

Brandywine River Museum placed online the catalogue from the exhibit Reality Check: Contemporary American Trompe l'Oeil held September 11 through November 18, 2010. [Link found to be expired as of 2015 audit. TFAO is saving the citation for use by researchers.]

Gary Erbe: 50 Year Retrospective  is a 2017 exhibit at the Butler Institute of American Art which says: "Gary Erbe is a self-taught painter from Union City, New Jersey. Unable to attend art school, he supported himself and his family as an engraver. In 1967, Erbe discovered Trompe l'oeil painting and its masters. In 1969, Erbe conceived a way of creating paintings that would be more contemporary and a departure from the 19th Century Trompe l'oeil masters." Also see artist's website and 5/11/17 article in Tribune Chronicle. Accessed 6/17

Master of Illusion: The Magical Art of Gary Erbe is a 2015 exhibit at the Heckscher Museum of Art which says: "Master of Illusion: The Magical Art of Gary Erbe traces the artist's career from his early trompe l'oeil works executed in a style the artist calls "levitational realism" - for the illusionistic levitation of the objects depicted - to his more recent paintings that combine trompe l'oeil realism with modernist tendencies, creating works that focus on juxtaposed objects and the dynamics of composition, form, and structure." Accessed 8/18

The Mystery & Magic: The Trompe L'Oeil Vision of Gary Erbe, an exhibit held April 24, 2015 through July 19, 2015 at the Canton Museum of Art. CMA says "Rather than painting trompe l'oeil architectural scenes, one of the most popular examples often found on inner-city murals, he brings inanimate objects to life on canvas in a surprisingly realistic manner. Erbe's self-taught skillful paintings dazzle with lifelike compositions that are constructed of collaged still-life content drifting in mid-air. Erbe coined the term "Levitational Realism" to define his contribution to the trompe l'oeil legacy." Accessewd February, 2016.

Trompe L'oeil Painting from Accessed August, 2015.

Trompe l'oeil: The Art of Deception was a 1996-97 exhibit at the Sheldon Museum of Art which says: "Curated by Sheldon Gallery Director, George Neubert, Trompe l'oeil: The Art of Deception includes twenty works, paintings as well as sculptural objects, that are highly realistic and illusionistic. Trompe l'oeil, a French term meaning to fool, or deceive, the eye, describes the rarest form of traditional still-life painting. It is illusionism carried beyond certainty to deception."  Viewers may download the exhibition brochure. Accessed 1/17

Trompe L'Oeil: The Art of Illusion, from the Haggin Museum. [Link found to be expired as of 2015 audit. TFAO is saving the citation for use by researchers.]

From The Art Bulletin, Trompe l'oeil painting and the counterfeit Civil War, (essay) June, 1997, by Cecile Whiting. [Link found expired as of 10/12 audit. TFAO is saving the citation for your reference]


DVD/VHS videos:

Painting the Town: The Illusionistic Murals of Richard Haas Introduces the work of architectural muralist Richard Haas (b. 1936), whose mammoth murals using the "fool-the-eye" painting tradition have transformed contemporary cityscapes. The video explores the evolution of Haas' murals and uses time-lapse photography to demonstrate how they are made. Includes the Chisholm Trail mural in Fort Worth, Texas. 56-minute video. Description source: Amon Carter Museum Teacher Resource Center.

TFAO does not maintain a lending library of videos or sell videos. Click here for information on how to borrow or purchase copies of VHS videos and DVDs listed in TFAO's Videos -DVD/VHS, an authoritative guide to videos in VHS and DVD format.



-- not researched

We welcome suggestions for additional content by sending an email to

Return to Topics in American Representational Art

TFAO catalogues:

Individual pages in each catalogue are continuously amended as TFAO adds content, corrects errors and reorganizes sections for improved readability. Refreshing or reloading pages enables readers to view the latest updates.

Links to sources of information outside of our web site are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and all other web sites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating web pages see TFAO's General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.

Search Resource Library

Copyright 2018 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.