Glossary

What is illusionism?

In art history, illusionism definition refers to either the creative practice of creating a work of art that appears to share physical space with the viewer or, more broadly, the endeavor to accurately reflect actual appearances - sometimes known as mimesis. The term "realism" can be used in this sense, but it also has other meanings in the art, such as the selection of regular everyday subject matter and the avoidance of idealizing subjects.


Roman illusionism paintings demonstrate an unscientific but efficient understanding of depicting distant objects as smaller than closer ones, as well as representing regular geometric structures like a room's roof and walls with perspective. This advancement in illusionistic effects did not imply a rejection of idealism; statues of Greek gods and heroes attempt to accurately represent idealized and beautiful forms, while other works, such as the famously ugly Socrates' heads, were permitted to fall short of these ideal standards of beauty. When not influenced by Greek art, Roman portraiture demonstrates a stronger devotion to portraying its subjects accurately.


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