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22 amazing trompe l'oeil illusions

Put simply, trompe l'oeil is the art of illusion. And the images we've brought together here will seriously make you question your eyes.

Here we will explain what exactly trompe l'oeil is, and astound you with 22 amazing examples of the art.

Trompe l'oeil (trick of the eye) is the term used for the technique of using realistic imagery to create an optical illusion of depth. Artists have been practising it for centuries to create stunning illustrations and fool their audience. And these brilliant examples are no exception. Prepare to be amazed, and tell us your favourite example of trompe l'oeil in the comments...

01. Felice Varini

Examples of trompe l'oeil
Swiss-born artist Felice Varini creates mindblowing, geometric trompe l'oeil installations

Felice Varini is a Swiss born artist based in Paris. For over thirty years now, he's been creating remarkable, geometric trompe l'oeil installations around the world. Painting primarily on architectural spaces such as buildings and walls, each of his works has a single vantage point in which a precise geometric shape appears. Genius.

02. The Crevasse

Don't. Look. Down

German street painter Edgar Mueller is a master of fun trompe l'oeil work, this crevasse piece being a perfect example. Mueller's website is filled with awe-inspiring images of incredibly detailed and realistic street paintings, which include waterfalls, trees and caves. We know this particular example isn't real but that wouldn't stop us thinking twice before standing on it.

03. House party

Examples of trompe l'oeil
Artist Ciaran Brennan really got into the party spirit, painting this trompe l'oeil on the outside of his house

Last year, artist Ciarán Brennan went all out for his annual house party by painting this optical illusion of balloons spilling out on the walls outside. He comments on his piece, "I didn't get to finish it completely ,I wanted to paint the inside of the house through the hole in the wall but I ended up just making it dark."

04. Roundstone St

Examples of Trompe L'Oeil
This trompe l'oeil in Wiltshire is said to be the largest in the UK

Located in Roundstone St in Trowbridge, UK, this trompe l'oeil is thought to be the biggest in the country. The realistic house design, created by artist Roger Smith and Wiltshire Steeplejacks, was installed on the blank wall in October 2003 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Trowbridge civic society.

05. Dining table

Ian Carnie's dining table features a realistic place mat, cutlery, jigsaw puzzle and much more

This dining table looks like it needs a good tidy. However, attempting it wouldn't get you very far as the objects are in fact oil paintings on top of the wood. This brilliant piece was created by fine artist and interior decorator Ian Carnie, who specialises in decorative and landscape trompe l'oeil murals.

06. Great American Crossroad

Examples of trompe l'oeil
This Great American Crosroad is one of many trompe l'oeil pieces created by artist Eric Grohe

Eric Grohe began his creative career as an illustrator and graphic designer back in 1961. Since then, his work has grown in scope and size, leading to the large-scale trompe l’oeil murals he creates today. Using specialist German paint, which crystallizes into mineral substrates and will not fade, peel or blister, Grohe has painted artwork all over the US, including this brilliant piece titled Great American Crossroad, located in Ohio.

07. The Canebière

Examples of trompe l'oeil
Artist Pierre Delavie recreates Marseille's most historic street on the facade of the Palais de la Bourse

A specialist in urban illusion, visual artist, painter, videographer and  musician, Pierre Delavie is the man behind this giant trompe l'oeil located on the facade of the Palais de la Bourse in Marseille, France. The brilliant scene shows the Canebière - the historic high street in the old quarter of Marseille - passing right through the building.

08. Trompe l'oeil bench

trompe l’oeil bench
Upholstered or carved? Another sleek design from the team at Rüskasa

Taiwanese company Rüskasa's hand-built RU-ST007 bench features a trompe l'oeil effect on the seat looking as if it's upholstered when it's actually carved to just look like that. Clever, eh?

09. Fresque du Petit-Champlain

Examples of trompe l'oeil
Quebec is home to some amazing trompe l'oeil artwork, including this Fresque du Petit-Champlain piece

Quebec is home to some amazing trompe l'oeil artwork. One such example is this Fresque du Petit-Champlain, which can be found in Old Quebec, at the foot of Escalier Casse-Cou (Breakneck Steps) and along one of the oldest streets in North America. The mind-blowing piece depicts depicts milestones in the city's history, from the beginnings of New France until the present day.

10. Honda commercial

Packed full of optical illusions and illustrations, this brilliant commercial for Honda was created by UK ad agency mcgarrybowen.

Want to see how it was done? Well, you're in luck as the car giants have also put up a behind-the-scenes video to make sense of the trompe l'oeil madness.

11. Bookcase

Examples of trompe l'oeil
This amazing piece is one of many trompe l'oeil artworks by artist Paul Stephen Czainski

Hard to believe, we know. But there's no way you'd be able to read this set of books for they are, in fact, a brilliant example of trompe l'oeil art. Created by professional trompe l'oeil painter, muralist and illustrator Paul Stephen Czainski, this is just one of many amazing pieces by the talented artist.

12. René Magritte Museum

Examples of trompe l'oeil
This amazing trompe l'oeil art features building facades as theatre curtains, pleated open to reveal a masterpiece from René Magritte

Back in 2009, a new museum, dedicated to the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte, opened in Brussels. The building that housed this famous painter's work had its facade recreated in trompe l'oeil, featuring two side of theatre curtains pleated open to reveal a giant reproduction of iconic work of Magritte: The Empire of Light (1954). 

13. 39 George V

Trompe l'oeil
The facade of the 39GeorgeV building looked like this throughout 2007

In 2007, the people of Paris were able to take in this view of the 39 George V building. While the structure was being renovated, artwork made entirely of photographs of the original building was manipulated, printed and hung on scaffolding to shelter the rehabilitation. Very cool. 

14. Cafe Trompe L'oeil

Examples of Trompe L'Oeil
Can you tell where real life ends and the mural begins?

Artist John Pugh is famous for his intricate trompe l'oeil murals, located around on various buildings around the world. "I have found that the 'language' of life-size illusions allow me to communicate with a very large audience," says Pugh. "It seems almost universal that people take delight in being visually tricked." This detailed piece, titled Art Imitating Life Imitating Art Imitating Life, features at the Cafe Trompe L'oeil, in San Jose, California.

15. Pepsi truck

This design is so realistic, you're bound to do a double take

Trompe l'oeil art doesn't just work buildings. This Pepsi design, featuring several gravity-defying crates of cola, was one of seven semi-trailer trucks that were painted in the brain-scrambling trompe l'oeil style. (Others included a fish tank and mobile library design.)

16. Balcony

This awesome example of trompe l'oeil made us do a double-take

This mind-blowing trompe l'oeil image was created by photographer Helen G. We have to admit, it took us a few seconds to notice the pencil drawing at the top of the building and realise some of the balconies were not real. 

17. LaSalle Towers

Hard to believe, we know, but everything you see here is a painting on a flat wall.

This facade is part of the LaSalle Towers Apartments high-rise building on North LaSalle Street in Chicago, Illinois. This wall actually has no real door, steps or detailed engravings: everything you see here is a painting. This trompe l'oeil mural is based on Louis H Sullivan's Golden Door from the Transportation Building at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1892.  

18. Derelict building

Mural artist Nina Camplin transformed an old, derelict building into a gorgeous piece of trompe l'oeil artwork

This impressive mural, painted by artist Nina Camplin, transformed an old, derelict building in Swanage into an eye-catching piece of art. Specialising in trompe l'oeil, Camplin website states she is 'interested in challenging perceptions of space and creating illusions of faked realities.'

19. Garage door library

Artist Don Grey painted this brilliant mural for former book reviewer of the LA Times, Lee Dembart

It's not every day you come across an interesting garage door, so we had to include this one in our list. This particular library design graces the door of Lee Dembart, former editorial writer and book reviewer for the LA Times, for whom books are a passion. Dembart had this trompe l'oeil mural painted in 2005 by artist Don Gray.   

20. Arches

Talented mural artist Janet Shearer has created many stunning trompe l'oeil pieces

The career of mural artist Janet Shearer began back in 1983 when she was commissioned to decorate the walls of a swimming pool in Hyde Park. Since then she created hundreds of paintings, which range from portraits and landscapes. But Shearer has a particular passion for trompe l'oeil and constantly creates brilliant pieces, including this including this ultra-realistic 'Arches' mural.  

21. Gijsbrechts

Examples of trome l'oeil
Flemish artist Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts specialised in trompe-l'oeil and illusionistic paintings

Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts was a Flemish painter, active in the 18th century. Much of his works, most notably for the Danish court, specialised in trompe-l'oeil or illusionistic paintings. A perfect example is this brilliantly realistic piece, which depicts a curtain pulled back, revealing correspondence and stationery secured to a wooden board.

22. Siete Punto Uno

trompe l'oeil
John Pugh paints incredibly realistic 3D scenes that delude the viewer

Another piece by artist John Pugh, this Egyptian style mural adorns a wall in Los Gatos, California. His incredibly realistic 3D illustrations trick the viewer's eye into believing the scene is real. Even the woman peering into the ruin isn't real.

This is an updated and extended version of an article that previously appeared on Creative Bloq. Let us know what we should add to future updates in the comments box below!

Words: Kerrie Hughes

Kerrie Hughes is content manager at Creative Bloq.

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