Georges Méliès, the Painter

Elsewhere I have already written (in German) about a fine recent art exhibition in Munich and Aachen on “Lust for Deception”–and thus manipulating perception–through the centuries. (You can see some pictures here.) It was a fitting tribute to include magician and movie pioneer Georges Méliès with a number of short, deceptive stop-trick clips which ran nonstop on a special screen.

But later, I was much more surprised to discover an amazing painting by the same artist in the huge trompe l’oeil section. I must admit that I had not been aware of his other immense talent. Had you? His “Self-Portrait of the Artist” (below, exact date unknown) certainly deserves special mention, both out of itself and in the light of his real/reel profession.

Web Screenshot

I have asked The Great Googelini for advice, but even he could not conjure up a significant number of other “traditional” paintings by Méliès. But as I learned here, he apparently aspired to work as a painter early on. Instead, he became a magician and a visionary pioneer of filmmaking who painted his own fanciful scenery and smokescreens.

And, as they say, the rest is history.

Addendum 26.08.2019:

As I’ve just learned from French fellow magician and Méliès expert Frédéric Tabet at EMHC, the attribution of this painting to him (Méliès, that is) is highly questionable in the light of recent research. For example, the person depicted does not even remotely look like Méliès, nor does the signature match… So let’s be careful here!

By the way, Frédéric has an academic book out (in French) about Méliès and the relations of magic techniques and cinema in its early years. If you can read French fluently, you may want to check this out.


Peter “The Painter” Warlock

The Davenport Collection website screenshot

It’s not uncommon for magicians to pursue other creative ventures, like painting, shadowgraphy (Dai Vernon‘s main source of income) or edible magic art (Annabel de Vetten). Please have a look in my “Magic Art” section for numerous other bits and links.

As I just noticed on The Davenport Collection website (a fine and growing resource for magic history buffs!), magician and mentalist Peter Warlock was also an anbitious amateur painter. Several examples from the Davenport collection are on display there, including some where he tried his hand on trompe de l’oeil art (which links him with Georges Méliès, see an upcoming post).

Above you see his rendition of Buatier de Kolta performing his unique “Expanding Die” illusion.


Ausstellung zur “Lust der Täuschung”

Die Wahrheit ist nicht irgendwo da draußen, sondern stets nur in unserem Gehirn. Wir glauben, was wir sehen; aber wir sehen auch, was wir zu sehen glauben. Viele Täuschungen beruhen auf den Grenzen unserer Wahrnehmung, weil diese entweder fehlerhaft, selektiv oder schlichtweg bequem ist.

Nicht nur die Zauberkunst macht sich diese Schwächen zu Nutzen, sondern auch die bildende Kunst. Man denke etwa an optische Täuschungen, zum Beispiel vermeintliche Tiefenwirkungen auf zweidimensionaler Fläche oder sogenannte “Trompe l’Oeils” (wörtlich: Augentäuschungen) – das sind täuschend echt gemalte Bilder, die eine nicht existente Realität vorgaukeln. Bei der unten stehenden letzten Abbildung etwa ist alles nur gemalt – die Holztür, die Weintrauben, ja selbst die Schnur und der Nagel!

“Lust der Täuschung” nennt sich sehr passend eine große Ausstellung, die nach München nun bis zum 30. Juni in Aachen im Ludwig Forum zu sehen ist. Sie schlägt gekonnt den Bogen von antiker Kunst bis zu heutigen Virtual-Reality-Darstellungen. Georges Méliès ist hier übrigens auch mit Werken vertreten.

Ich habe die Ausstellung in München gesehen und kann einen Besuch nur wärmstens empfehlen! Interessant ist auch der umfangreiche Katalog, der im Hirmer Verlag erschienen ist.