Jimmy Sanders was born in Brownsville, a small town located east of Memphis, Tennessee. In 1985, Sanders was granted a full scholarship to study at the Memphis College of Art. After only one year, he became dissatisfied with the training and decided to leave the institution. In 1993, after several years of self-instruction, Sanders attended the Florence Academy of Art in Italy. Abroad, he reacted positively to a more rigorous artistic curriculum. While studying in Florence, Sanders was tutored by Daniel Graves (b. 1949), the founder and director of the Florence Academy. From 1993 until 1995 Sanders focused his studies on the 19th Century Academic style.
In 1997 and 1998, Sanders traveled throughout Europe to immerse himself in the Old Masters. To this day, his main interest lies in the works of Dutch painters from the 17th century. Their influence is most noticeable in Perspective Box, Studio in Florence, which shows Sanders’s studio in Florence. After seeing A Peepshow with Views of the Interior of a Dutch House by Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627-1678), Sanders was inspired to create a contemporary version of this 17th century convention.
The perspective box is also known as a “peepshow,” and can be described as a tool which helps an artist create a trompe l’oeil (fool the eye) image of a three dimensional space. Sanders carefully constructed the perspective to create the illusion of an interior of a room inside of a wooden box. When looking through one of the peep-holes placed on both sides of the box, the viewer is presented with the illusion of a three dimensional room. Perspective boxes were popular during the 17th century since they combined scientific and artistic principles, There were intrinsic elements of the Humanist philosophies of the time.
The tradition of the perspective box can be traced back to the Camera Obscura (Dark Room), which was a device often used by artists, such as Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675), to help them draw more accurately and to achieve a more precise perspective. The Camera Obscura consists of a room or box with a hole on one of its sides. Light from outside passes through the opening and projects an upside-down image of the exterior scene, with the color and perspective intact, onto a surface within the room or box. This image can then be projected onto a piece of paper and traced by the artist.
Looking through the peep-holes of this perspective box, Sanders’ working space is shown with his books neatly stacked on a shelf on the back wall and his pots of paint and other art tools on the right of the studio. When looking towards the left wall one notices the inclusion of a self-portrait in one of the mirrors. This clever placement of the artist is an allusion to the Humanist foundation of this perspective box. During the Humanist period, scholars shifted the intellectual focus away from theology and logic towards distinctly human studies, such as rhetoric, history, and literature.
What do you think of Sanders’ “reinterpretation” of this classic tool? How does this perspective box relate (or not relate) to the “impossible realities” that MC Escher created? Can you think of other contemporary artists who work in similar method?
Want YOUR name on THIS work of art?
The Museum is most grateful to the artist for his donation and also to Melinda and Paul Sullivan, who initially underwrote his living expenses in Florence while he was painting Perspective Box, Studio in Florence.
The Sullivans have offered to match all donations up to $25,000 towards the purchase of this extraordinary example of contemporary trompe l’oeil painting. Please consider making a donation which will be given to the artist. Any donations over $1,000 will be commemorated by the inclusion of your name in the credit line. If interested, please contact: noellea AT nbmaa.org