The Art: Escaping Criticism
The Artist: Pere Borrell del Caso

About the Work:

It was the late 1850s, and Romanticism, still in its prime, was the topic of choice at Barcelona’s esteemed advanced school for the arts, Escola de la Llotja.

Most of his classmates might have been fine with that, but not Pere Borrell del Caso. A fledgling artist who came from a background as a chest maker, Borrell rejected the whimsy and idealism of Romanticism, and instead chose to focus on Realism.

Specifically, his style of choice was trompe l’oeil – optical illusions.

Produced in 1874, Escaping Criticism proved not only to be Borrell’s best work, but one of the most popular examples of trompe l’oeil ever created.

Painted with oil on canvas, the forced perspective and level of detail are spectacular. From the hand grasping the inner edge of the frame, to the shadowing of the rear leg, it’s almost difficult to believe that we are looking at a 2D image.

Though Borrell’s rationale for the piece was never documented, it has been proposed that it was conceived as a reaction to his contemporaries obsession with Romanticism. The subject, like Borrell, seems wildly eager to flee the scrutinising gaze of the conservative critics, demeaning as they were when an artist dared to defy the trend, and pursue a life defined only by his desires.

Though Borrell died relatively unknown in 1910, that’s exactly what he did. In later life he founded his own art school, Sociedad de Bellas Artes. There, students were encouraged to work outside; to experience the world, and let it inform their creations.

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