I’ve always been interested in words and their origins, so it came as no surprise when in my early teens my parents gave me a shorter Oxford English Dictionary for my birthday. This thumping great slab of a book with over 1500 wafer thin pages – in the days before online dictionaries – taught me that English has such vitality and richness because it has drawn so much from other languages.
Unlike France, where Government has banned the incorporation of English words into the lexicon, English has shamelessly raided French. RSVP, Poste restante, à la carte, Grand Prix are just a few common examples.
Two French phrases have always intrigued me for their conciseness and subtlety. L’esprit d’escalier (staircase wit) is the response you should have made, but only thought of too late when the discussion was over.
Trompe l’oeil (deceives the eye) has been a term in the art world for centuries, describing paintings and drawings that create an illusion, that encourage exploration of the subject matter with fresh eyes.
In a sense this is part of a wider discourse on the role of art, which John Berger explores in his book Ways of Seeing (Penguin Modern Classics).
Over the years the Trompe l’oeil ‘treatment’ has been applied to architecture and buildings and more widely in other fields; and by a range of artists like Salvador Dali, Magritte and M S Echer.
Attached in this blog posting are some Trompe l’oeil examples I have found or created with a camera in the US and Germany over the last few months.
At the top is a picture of the shop window of local store,‘Englische Antiquitaien’ in the town of Konstanz, in Germany which our Queen Elizabeth appears to be about to enter, bag in hand. Behind her a couple holding hands are crossing the street. Given the interest shown round the world in the birth of George, the UK’s new royal baby, the choice of his great grandmother may well have attracted attention and customers to the shop.
The second picture is an arresting image of a multi storey apartment block with an impressive portal in downtown Chicago, where we are staying this week. It’s near the Gold Coast neighbourhood and is in fact the work of Richard Haas, the American muralist on a blank wall.
The two photos below are shots taken in Bellingham, a port town north of Seattle near the border with Canada. The first shows two seagulls flying above some miniature sailing boats. The second is of town life in the northwest with an unusual mix of 19th century horse and carriage and 21st century motor cars. Why not suggest some explanations and titles for these two images in the Comments section below?