Architectural Illusion

By Doornek, Richard R. | School Arts, February 1990 | Go to article overview

Architectural Illusion


Doornek, Richard R., School Arts


Looking carefully

Richard Haas is recognized as the major architectural muralist in America. He transforms bare, ordinary walls of buildings into extravagant and inventive architectural fantasies. His gigantic wall paintings are found in many cities throughout the United States, and abroad in such cities as Munich, West Germany and Melbourne, Australia. While he has achieved fame for his trompe l'oeil (literally, "fool the eye") technique, he has said, "I do not intend to deceive people--I want them to react to each piece as a good work of art which has created an illusion."

Painting on surfaces and walls has been a significant art form since the days of the cave painters. Primitive societies followed the urge to make marks of spiritual and cultural importance on cave walls and on landmarks in their immediate world. The fresco painters of the Renaissance adorned the architectural interiors of great cathedrals and churches with large paintings. These artists depicted scenes from the Bible--literally creating visual stories fulfilling a need to inform a largely illiterate society.

Richard Haas has responded to a different kind of need, a need for a kind of ornamental richness which is absent from many of our modern buildings. While his huge murals are illusionistic by nature, Haas says that his purpose is "to embellish and enrich through the re-introduction of decorative elements to architectural surfaces." He looks upon large, blank walls found in our cities as huge canvasses upon which to work his magic.

The centerspread in this issue shows his mural on the wall of the Fontainebleau Hilton Hotel in Miami Beach. The inset photo shows what the wall looked like before Haas applied his masterful touch to completely change the nature of the wall with paint--color and shadow and texture. He has effectively seduced the onlooker into believing that the wall has depth and dimension. He has used his skill to imply sculpted figures, a recessed arch and carved ornamental forms. He takes the viewer's eye on a delightful, fanciful journey into a make-believe landscape.

"Architecture, like many of nature's animals, changes its skin to satisfy the needs of a shifting environment. Architectural illusion, which I began using in the mid-70s, is mostly a painted architecture that allows an artist to alter the skin more radically and rapidly than actual constructed surfaces do. With the use of mosaic, gold leaf finishes, and sculptural friezes, I have recently extended the range of decor beyond paint alone and made the perception of the work richer."

Note the effective integration of the real plant forms in the front of the wall with the painted forms through the arch. Notice the artist's use of blue taken front the brilliant Florida sky to modify the shape of the building and suggest the top of the arch. See how the real shadows cast by the building are reinforced by the painted shadows. Are you able to distinguish the real from the painted? Would this facade appear different when the sun is in a different position? In his combining an Art Deco Triumphal Arch with the Egyptian images of bas-relief, ibis and elongated caryatid figures, Haas has used ambiguity to delight and engage the viewer. Under what conditions would this mural lose its ability to fool the eye? What would be the ideal conditions for viewing the mural?

Key concepts

* The artist's conception of the environment provides information to other people and to other times.

* The mural is an art form which can simultaneously inform, educate, decorate, celebrate, provoke and mystify.

* Interior and exterior surfaces and spaces are enhanced through the use of murals.

* skillful use of color, light and shadow can make two dimensional surfaces appear to have depth and substance.

Comparing

Haas was influenced by artists of the past whose prints and paintings of buildings and citrus are famous.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Architectural Illusion
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.