Optical Art


An optical illusion represents our sense of vision and perception to define a reality in various ways. The optical art also known as Op-art abbreviation of Optical Art or Op-Art; it is based on the observer actively participating in pictorial appreciation through visual effects of relief, depth, movements through lines, flat and static colors.


What is optical art?

Optical art is a trend developed from kinetic art that appeared after surrealism in the 20th century. It is defined as an artistic movement that originated in the United States in 1958; which uses optical phenomena to produce abstract pictorial images, is considered an innovation for the use of illusory elements for the eye of the beholder.


What is optical art?

This type of art creates sensations of movement through optical illusions on two-dimensional surfaces , developing perspectives that the human eye cannot fix in space.



The most outstanding characteristics of optical art are:

  • It uses simple geometric figures that combined form more complex figures.
  • All the works made are physically immobile, that is, they lack any real movement.
  • Its main objective is to conceive various visual effects that simulate that they have movement.
  • It is a technical and impersonal art .
  • It has a scientific basis with the aim of creating unique visual effects .
  • Use the repetition of simple shapes of lines, cubes and concentric circles, in which black and white predominate and contrasting complementary colors .
  • It has defined and clean bases by using the acrylic painting technique .
  • The works have an effect of depth .
  • Thanks to the optical effects, a total dynamism is created in flat surfaces that before the human eye is transformed into three-dimensional spaces full of vibration, movement and oscillation.
  • The artists use colors, light and shadows with great skill to create their works .
  • They employ the use of optical techniques such as parallel lines, they can be undulating or straight and have marked chromatic contrasts that can be bichromatic or polys.


Its origin is developed by the Hungarian artist Victor Vasarely (1906-1997) considered the father of Op art ; Vasarely created his own model of geometric abstract art with optical effects of movement, ambiguity of forms, perspectives and unstable images. One of his most outstanding works was Zebra, an art style of the animal painting genre developed in Paris in 1937 at the age of 31.


Optical art is an artistic pictorial movement and a trend born in April 1958 in the United States , despite the fact that this current precedes in Europe where they lived the first experiences on the perception of static or moving images; in the United States it was its main point of development and massification.

It developed in the 20th century, a period where world wars dominated and new nuclear weapons appeared, with the imminent arrival of the Cold War for the United States at that time.

His terminology first appeared in Time magazine in October 1964.

He had influence with movements such as Constructivism , Bauhaus , De Stijl and Suprematism .

Due to its variety of study of forms, optical art was accepted by the public, where it had great influence in other areas of art such as advertising, graphics and fashion.

The movement was solidified from an exhibition where it had solemnity in 1965 at the museum of modern art in New York entitled “The resposive, eye . 

Types of optical art

Its most relevant derivations are:

  • Abstract art: it is a manifestation of non-objective artistic beauty, where the artist does not copy the nature of the forms, but rather represents the authenticity of his art with a surrealist profile.
  • Geometric abstract art: it is a style of artistic expression that refers to the use of simple geometric shapes creating a subjectivity through compositions in surreal spaces.
  • Kinetic art contemporary art that is based on producing optical illusions through the creation of objects that change with real or virtual movements.
  • Luminous kinetic art : art that uses as a component of the work the introduction of real movements with a focus on artistic matter in spaces, light and time.

How it differs from kinetic art

  • It lacks any real movement, that is, each work carried out is physically immobile due to its design of static works.
  • Optical art is a pictorial movement while kinetic art is an art based on sculpture.

Representatives of optical art

  • Victor Vasarely (1906-1997)
  • Bridget Riley (1931-)
  • Yaacov Agam (1928-)
  • Jesús Rafael Soto (1923-2005)
  • Carlos Cruz Diez (1923-)
  • Youri Messen Jaschin (1941-)
  • Julio Le Parc (1928-)
  • Reuven Rubin (1893-1974)
  • Kenneth Noland (1924-2010)
  • Richard Anuszkiewicz (1930-)
  • Jean Pierre Yvaral (1934-2002)
  • C. Escher (1898-1962)


The most outstanding works of optical art are:

  • Zebra (Victor Vasarely 1937)
  • Tigers (Victor Vasarely 1938)
  • Circle limit III (MC Escher 1959)
  • Air and water (MC Escher 1938)
  • Liberation (MC Escher 1955)
  • Movement in squares (Bridget Riley 1961)
  • Blaze 1 (Bridget Riley 1962)


This movement generates a constant evolution in the modern world and in art since the perception, culture, beliefs, concepts and ideals are constantly modified over time by the contribution of manifestations that definitively creates a synergy between the viewer and the work. Therefore, this movement lacks emotions for greater receptivity and interpretation, only using techniques such as illusion.

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