The Art of the Illusion: Deceptions to Challenge the Eye and Mind : Optometry and Vision Science

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The Art of the Illusion

Deceptions to Challenge the Eye and Mind

Bach, Michael

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Optometry and Vision Science 90(1):p e37, January 2013. | DOI: 10.1097/OPX.0b013e3182805bb4
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Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Publishing; 2012. $24.95.

The advantage of writing this review is that I can keep my review copy, which markedly offsets the efforts to distill my feelings about it into English words—this already says much. The title includes “art,” and that is the major strength of this collection—the artistic universe, mainly spanned by Hogarth, Reutersvärd, Escher, and Magritte, is populated and extended by this book with a sizable number of fabulous artists, many contemporary. Print quality is excellent overall; the few pixelated examples have their own charm. In some scattered variations of the “peripheral drift/snake illusion”—made famous by Kitaoka—the color process seems to have impaired the striking illusory motion effect, which critically depends on luminance levels.

I may not represent the typical audience with my long-standing deep interest in illusions. The typical reader may not miss what this book is not about: It does not describe the perceptual mechanisms leading to specific optical illusions, it does not categorize them (being organized by artists), and it does not give a contemporary vision research interpretation of optical illusions. (My preferred perspective, in brief: Appreciating optical illusions does not mean “we can’t rely on our cheating eyes.” Rather, the usually quite apt inferences of our perceptual system, always based on incomplete information, occasionally go wrong when given atypical input. This is known as the Bayesian interpretation of perception.)

Back to the book. Make sure you have leisure time on hand and a glass of good wine when you explore this book. It invites you to browse and get lost in beautiful, intriguing, and bizarre artwork: so many beautiful extensions of impossible figures, background-foreground reinterpretation, trompe-l’œil, and more. Recommended.

Michael Bach

Freiburg, Germany

© 2013 American Academy of Optometry