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Term applied in its broadest sense to the basic principle of naturalistic art whereby verisimilitude in representation causes the spectator in varying degrees to seem actually to be seeing the object represented, or the space in which it is represented, even though with part of his mind he knows that he is looking at a pictorial representation. In a somewhat narrower sense ‘illusionism’ refers to the use of pictorial techniques such as perspective and foreshortening to deceive the eye (if not the mind) into taking that which is painted for that which is real, or in architecture and stage scenery to make the constructed forms seem visually more extensive than they are. Two specific forms of illusionism in painting are quadratura, in which painted architecture appears to extend the real space of a room, and trompe-l'œil, in which the spectator is genuinely, if momentarily, tricked into thinking that a painted object is a real one.

Subjects: Art.

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