Sandro Del-Prete (born 1937) is a Swiss artist who paints figures, situations and processes that cannot exist in the real world. Del-Prete ‘materializes the well-known psychological effect, of the difference between ‘looking’ (usually the first glace of an observer) and ‘seeing’ (when things are appreciated more thoroughly in the mind)’ – Abraham Tamir. Comparisons can be drawn between Del-Prete and Escher’s artwork, although they differ in subject matter, style, mood and technique. Del-Prete greatly admires Escher and believes that they are ‘kindred spirits’, however the viewer will find very little mathematical precision in Del-Prete’s work, something that is always present in Escher’s work.
Del-Prete was born in Bern, Switzerland in 1937 and went to school in Fribourg, Switzerland. When he had completed his schooling at his father’s bidding, and had saved enough, Del-Prete finally decided to dedicate himself to his passion, painting. When he was twenty-three Del-Prete spent six months in Florence, Italy, where he attended the Florence Academy of Art. He studied the techniques of light and shadow, form design, colour and the structural elements of the old masters such as Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Rubens.
When he returned to Switzerland, Del-Prete immersed himself in creating religious and symbolic art. Del-Prete never tried to sell his work but looked at it as a hobby, and started a career in the insurance industry to support his family. During this period, Del-Prete experimented with drawing, painting and sculpture. Del-Prete’s interest in Illusionism sprang from his observation of a chameleon. He wondered ‘what the animal really saw, what picture it had of its own world’.
He began to look upon different perspectives and in the early 1960s began creating illustrations that would lead to his later ‘illusiry’ images. Del-Prete began to experiment, drawing scenes and objects that could be looked at from two different viewpoints. From that experiment arose a new type of illusionism, whereby ‘normal terms like front, back, top, bottom, right, and left could no longer be used’. His earliest drawing from this period, which draws upon double-perspective, is ‘Window Gazing’ completed in 1961.
Del-Prete experimented with other illusions where objects broke free of their picture frames and into the surrounding environment, and ‘ambiguous images’, where the meaning altered between two different perceptions. In 1981 Del-Prete published privately his first collection of black and white pencil drawings. It was successful enough for him to publish a second collection in 1987. His passion and hard work started to pay off and in 1984 he had a groundbreaking exhibition of his illusionary art at the Phenomena Show in Zurich. He started to devote all his time to the creation of illusionary images and in the same year he opened up a gallery in Bern, which was highly successful. A few years later, he created his own illusion themed fun house and art gallery, Illusoria-Land, located in Ittigen, Switzerland.