Trompe L’oeil

What is a trompe l'oeil?

Updated March 14, 2022

Trompe l’oeil, a French term that means “fools the eye,” is a style of illusionistic painting that makes realistic two-dimensional artworks appear to be 3-D.

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When used in murals, it makes walls come alive—people, places and objects seem to jump into interior spaces, creating optical illusions that add depth to the space and make viewers take a second look.

A trompe l'oeil, which can be used as a mural in a home, tricks the eye. Credit: Stux/Pixabay

It also is used in stage-set design and by contemporary artists who create pavement art whose chalk images are designed to wash away in a couple of days or weeks.

The technique, which dates to ancient Greece and Rome, got its eye-catching name in 1800 when the popular French painter and draftsman Louis-Léopold Boilly used it as the title of a painting he exhibited in the prestigious Paris Salon exhibition.

Trompe l’oeil also fools the tongue— it is pronounced trump loy.