AP®︎/College Art History
by Dr. Asa Mittman
Texture is the feeling of a surface, real or represented. This might refer to the roughness or smoothness of actual objects and art media, or to the illusion of these properties.
Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog, 1994-2001, transparent color coating, stainless steel, 320 x 380 x 120 cm (photo: Kim, © Jeff Koons)
Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog has a perfectly smooth, mirrored surface it is difficult to resist touching (though we must). It is this surface texture that turns these replicas of commonplace, short-lived and disposable items (balloon animals) into precious objects.
In contrast, the coarse, bristly surface of an ancient Shang Dynasty Fang-Ding — a ritual vessel used in worshipping dead ancestors — grants the work a vibrant energy, but does not invite our touch.
Fangding Ritual Food Vessel with Abstract Decor, 14th-11th century B.C.E., China, Shang dynasty, cast bronze, 21.7 x 17.1 x 15.2 cm (Harvard Art Museums)
The illusion of texture
The illusion of texture is no less important to our experience of works of art.
Dutch still life paintings are justly famous for their careful, illusionistic replication of objects. The smooth silver plates and glass goblet of Pieter Claesz’s Still Life seem to tease us, as do the rougher cookies and breads, and the crumbly pie. The knife handle, pointing out of the image toward us, seems just beyond our grasp, and therefore makes this magnificent spread all the more tantalizing.
Pieter Claesz, Still Life, c. 1625, oil on panel, 48 × 76.9 cm (Art Institute of Chicago)
Want to join the conversation?
- So, a sculputre has an actual texture, but if it's a work of art, whether that texture beckons or repulses our touch, we should deal with it as "you can look but you'd better not touch." And a painting or photograph has an illusion of touch, though it, too, is not to actually BE touched. Does that sum it up?(6 votes)
- Not necessarily - some artists welcome the audience's touch. To quote Barbara Hepworth:
'I think every sculpture must be touched, it’s part of the way you make it and it’s really our first sensibility, it is the sense of feeling, it is first one we have when we’re born. I think every person looking at a sculpture should use his own body. You can’t look at a sculpture if you are going to stand stiff as a ram rod and stare at it, with as sculpture you must walk around it, bend toward it, touch it and walk away from it.'(33 votes)
- how is the texture so realistic(4 votes)
- This was done by a painter of very great skill and vast experience. Let us admire it together.(9 votes)
- This reminds me of three paintings/sculptures of Anish Kapoor. He made them with a texture that everybody immediately associates with flesh (of course he meant to do that). But then, is this a texture or the illusion of a texture? (by googeling Anish Kapoor flesh you see the work)(7 votes)
- In this case, it would be texture, the illusion of texture is when we think that there is an actual object or thing when in reality there is not.(2 votes)
- Can it be fair to say that the texture in the still life painting above is a combination of well-executed line, shape, form, color, and space working together? Otherwise, the gelatinous nature of the lemons, the wetness of the olives, and even the bending of the light at the surface of the glass of water would not be quite as believable.(4 votes)
- yes I think 'texture' is a more abstract word to mean the culmination of the more concrete elements of line, shape, etc. to create something that looks like it has a texture to it.(3 votes)
- Is texture a important part of a peice??(3 votes)
- Imagine a still life painting of two oranges, one of which, through the artist's craft, shows its texture, and the other of which, through the miracle of a color printer, is just an orange circle. Which is more satisfying to you?(4 votes)
- Hello, how is everyone?(4 votes)
- whether that texture beckons or repulses our touch, we should deal with it as "you can look but you'd better not touch." And a painting or photograph has an illusion of touch, though it, too, is not to actually BE touched. Does that sum it up?(3 votes)
- Yes, most of the things that seem real we will pretty much have the impulse to touch it (excluding television). It's in our nature to experience things with as many senses as we can.(2 votes)