Ted's teaching tips;The big picture

4th June 1999 at 01:00
Trompe l'oeil painting declined in popularity with the development of photography, but it raises issues about the nature of art and the "realism" it tries to portray.

Realistic art Look closely at why this picture appears "real" (point out light and shade in particular). Since we now have accurate colour photo-graphs, do we need this kind of "photographic" painting? Does a painting do anything that a photo cannot do, and vice versa? Look at 20th century paintings (Picasso, Klee, Dali, Hockney). What do they tell about the person, scene, or ideas portrayed? Could a camera achieve a similar effect?

Artefacts A collection of artefacts like this reveals something about a person, family, or historic event. What six small things in your life, put together in a picture, would tell a future generation about you (your favourite book, photo, hobby, friends, lifestyle)? What six items would show the life today of (a) a rich, or (b) a poor person?

Painting Look at an object like the ones in the picture (coin, comb, book, pen) closely and try to paint it exactly as it appears, with every detail, including light and shade. Then do a second painting, not so realistic, showing its "character".

Writing Describe how you imagine the owner of the objects in the picture: who, how old, what kind of life?

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University

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