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Trompe l'oeil pieces (or 'deceptions' as they were commonly called) were among the most popular paintings to be found in the collections of well-to-do English households of the seventeenth century. Their practitioners were chiefly painters from the Low Countries, of which Collier was one. Although often contemplative in nature, their main objective was to startle the eye with a virtuoso ability to create the illusion of graspable objects in paint. The trompe l'oeil letter rack with notes, newspapers, writing implements, seals and combs was one of Collier's favourite, and most commercially popular, subjects. Many variations of it are known, with similar objects slightly differently arranged but always with different dates and printed texts.
Further reading: 'The Tate Gallery Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1984–1986', London 1988, pp.11–12, reproduced Harry H. Hilberry, 'Painting Illusions by Edwaert Colyer', Indianapolis Art Association Bulletin, vol.49, no.5, February 1963, pp.12–17 G. Saunders, 'Trompe l'Oeil: Visual Deception in European Art', The V. & A. Album 5, 1986, pp.59–67 Terry Riggs January 1998
A Trompe l'oeil of Newspapers, Letters and Writing Implements on a Wooden Board
Oil on canvas
H 58.8 x W 46.2 cm