What is 'trompe l'oeil'?
'Trompe l’oeil', (French: “deceive the eye”) is also known as 'Faux' painting or 'faux' finishing. These terms describe decorative paint finishes that replicate the appearance of many materials with paint.
The term comes from the French word 'faux', meaning false. These techniques started as a form of replicating materials such as marble & wood with paint. It also encompasses many other decorative finishes for walls & furniture including simulating textures and surfaces. It can also be in painting with the representation of an object to deceive the viewer regarding the material reality of the object.
This idea appealed to ancient Greeks who were newly emancipated from the conventional styles of earlier art. Zeuxis reportedly painted such realistic grapes that birds tried to eat them. In Italy in the 15th century, 'trompe l’oeil' views of cupboards with different articles seen upon the shelves through half-open doors became popular. In 1900's America, muralists painted exteriors of entire buildings in 'trompe l’oeil'.
Faux finishing or 'trompe l'oeil' has been used for millennia, from cave painting to the tombs of ancient Egypt, but what we generally think of as faux finishing in the decorative arts began with plaster & stucco finishes in Mesopotamia over 5,000 years ago. Presently, many amateur artists paint in this style to mimic marble, tile, wood grain, or paper as a sign of minimalism and cost effectiveness. Many books and videos are available on this subject.