Everything, including works of art, has a texture or surface. Texture can be rough, bumpy, slick, scratchy, smooth, silky, soft, the list is endless. In this lesson you'll examine the actual texture of works of art, and discover how artists create the illusion of texture with paint, wood, stone and clay. You'll also see how differences in texture can be used to create the illusion of space.
We use our hands to feel real Texture. Think about what you feel when you run your hands over the bark of a tree. Now think about what the surface of a piece of sandpaper feels like. These objects have real Texture, texture you can feel as well as see.
Works of art have a variety of actual textures created by the artist's choice of materials and how they are handled. The actual texture of this oil painting is quite rough and bumpy. Vincent Van Gogh Olive Trees 1889 Oil on canvas
Texture is the way something feels when you touch it. Artists create the illusion of texture in artworks such as paintings, drawings and prints.
You can see how the artist applies color with short, choppy brushstrokes to create the rough texture. Vincent VanGogh Detail of Olive Trees
The actual surface of this sculpture is hard, cold, and smooth. It's made of marble! Jud Nelson Hefty 2-Ply 1979-1981 Marble
The surface of this clay jar consists of rows of pointy bumps. So its surface feels rough to the hand. Lobi Jar with Lid 20th century Ceramic
In this granite sculpture, the large part of the bottom of the nearest column and at the top of the column in the background is rough and rocky, while the narrow parts of the two columns are smooth and polished. Martin Puryear Ampersand 1987-1988 Granite
The lizard perched on the side of this drum has a coarse, scaly texture. The top and bottom of the drum are smooth. Iatmul Kundu Drum 20th century Wood, rope
Painters and sculptors who work in the Realist style imitate natural surfaces and textures. The actual texture of a painting or sculpture may not be at all the same as the "visual texture" that the artist is imitating. Master of the Procession Gathering of Gamblers with Hurdy-Gurdy Player c. 1660 Oil on canvas
In the detail of this painting, you can see the artist's successful imitation of the surface of a soap bubble. Its "visual texture" appears to be wet and shiny. If you look more closely, you can see the actual texture created by the artist's application of paint. Detail of Gathering of Gamblers with Hurdy-Gurdy Player
This artist created nearly perfect visual textures in this painting. For example, the carving above the photograph and the paper on the door create the illusion that the work of art consists of a wooden door with paper glued and nailed onto it. John F. Peto Reminiscences of 1865 after 1900 Oil on canvas
This artist carved marble to represent the visual texture of a gauzy, transparent veil. Raffaelo Monti Veiled Lady c. 1860 Marble
This portrait looks like a photograph, but it's really a painting. A photograph is a record of the actual appearance of things. Notice how carefully the artist has imitated, in paint, the textures found on a face, like whiskers and bumps. This is a great example of an artist's attempt to create visual texture that is almost as good as the real thing! Chuck Close, Robert/104,072. 1973-74. Synthetic polymer paint and ink with graphite on gessoed canvas, 9' x 7'
An artist who is trying to create the illusion of space sharply defines texture in the foreground and paints less defined and softened textures in the background. Master of the Embroidered Foliage Virgin and Child in a Landscape c.1495-1500 Oil on panel
The trees and building in the background of this painting have details, such as the leaves on the trees, as sharply defined as those in the foreground. This indicates that the illusion of space was not this artist's primary goal. Detail of Virgin and Child in a Landscape
This artist painted texture to create the illusion of depth in this painting. Notice how sharply defined the texture is in the bark and leaves of the tree nearest to us on the left. Thomas Gainsborough The Fallen Tree probably between 1750 and 1753 Oil on canvas
The trees in the background are softer and less defined, as they would appear to our eyes if we were actually standing in the landscape. Detail of The Fallen Tree
This is a self-portrait. That means that the artist painted a picture of him self. The thick application of the paint and the use of many colors to accent the paint strokes gives this painting a Textured quality. Self-Portrait, Vincent van Gogh 1889, Oil on canvas
Young Field-Hare Watercolor, 1502, Albrecht Durer Textures may be actual or simulated. Actual textures can be felt with the fingers, while simulated textures are suggested by an artist in the painting of different areas of a picture — often in representing drapery, metals, rocks, hair, etc.
Look at this detail of the painting. Notice how the artist used colors, shapes, lines and patterns to create the illusion of the texture of this gown. These patterns and designs add visual texture to this painting giving it more visual interest. Gustav Klimt, (Austrian)1862-1918, Emilie Floge, 1902, Oil on canvas
At first glance, with the image so small, you may notice the shapes used in this work first, before you notice the texture. The entire surface of this painting is covered in thick, rectangular brushstrokes of color. Can you imagine what this painting would feel like if you could touch it? The colors and lines of the work are extremely simple. The added texture adds detail. Paul Klee (French) 1879-1940, Ad Parnassum, 1932,Oil on canvas, 39 x 49 in. 1932,Oil on canvas, 39 x 49 in.
Artists strive very hard to imitate the look and feel of real Texture in works of art. Perhaps an artist can't "make" the bark of a tree in his landscape "feel" like real bark, but the viewer will "see" the Texture and be able to associate it with the rough feel of actual bark. Artists are masters of deception. In some works, the viewer is tempted to actually reach out and touch a work of art because it looks like it has a Texture. They are surprised to feel only brushstrokes or a flat surface. The eye is tricked into seeing a "real" Texture. Jennifer Vranes Autumn Bliss acrylic on canvas
Jennifer Vranes Three Daughters acrylic on canvas
Person at the Window by Salvador Dali, 1925, Oil on canvas
The Ghost of Vermeer by Salvador Dali, 1934, oil on canvas