Blfinishing surrealist imagery through mainstream paint, Magritte’s apples and pipes appear on fridge magnets worldwide. But there’s somepoint eerie and existentially troubling at the heart of it all


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I can tell you what it isn’t … a visitor looking at Magritte’s 1929 paint La Trahiboy des Images, ceci n’est pas une pipe. Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA
I can tell you what it isn’t … a visitor looking at Magritte’s 1929 paint La Trahichild des Images, ceci n’est pas une pipe. Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA

We will certainly never before speak marvelling at the art of René Magritte. This Belgian surrealist who died in 1967 is forever contemporary; his paintings have actually never before gone stale and never will certainly. They are insidious conundrums that can never before be fixed, and the 2first century simply can’t withstand puzzling over them.

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A Magritte retrospective called The Treason of Images is around to open at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris, adhering to major showings of his art this decade in New York and also Chicback, not to mention Tate Liverpool. Why execute museums keep putting on massive Magritte shows and why carry out the crowds save coming?


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René Magritte with Femme-Bouteille, his oil painting of a nude on a glass bottle, circa 1955. Photograph: Archive Photos/Getty ImagesIt’s bereason he undermines our philosophical presumptions around the nature of reality even more pithily than a truckload of conceptual artists. In the late 1960s, John Lennon fell in love via conceptual artist Yoko Ono and became her collaborator, yet Paul McCartney had him beat: he owned (and also still does) a Magritte painting of an apple with the words “Au Revoir” created throughout it. This enigmatic picture influenced the Beatles to create Apple Corps (in a pun that would certainly have actually pleased Magritte, it’s pronounced “apple core”) and also instraight provided Apple computer systems their name as soon as Steve Jobs duplicated the Beatles.

While Ono’s art – or Martin Creed’s, or Ai Weiwei’s – is provocative and great fun, this kind of art (let’s speak to it conceptual as a shorthand) regularly stops at questions about art itself. “Is it art?” is not that deep a question – yet it’s the one Creed’s room, through the lights going on and also off keeps us asking. Magritte does not make anyone ask that question. We accept his paints are art. They are paintings, aren’t they? They also have actually nice frames. Yup, that looks prefer art albest.

They are likewise nicely painted, in an practically pedantic method. Not for him the radical pclimbing apart of appearances pioneered by cubism before the first world war or the strange techniques with which his fellow surrealist Max Ernst attempted to tap right into the unconscious roots of art. Magritte paints with a sincere amateur’s pedanattempt and a belief in the perspective tradition that would please the most conservative connoisseur.

Except it all goes wrong, someexactly how. His 1928 paint Man through a Newspaper, which hangs in Tate Modern, depicts specifically what it says in the title. A guy in a starched collar and businessfavor apparel sits analysis his paper alongside an iron range in a neat room looking out on a blue sky over green areas. It is all incredibly normal – also banal. But this scene just fills the peak left section of a snapshot split into 4. In the other three panels whatever is identical – except for one absence: the man is not tbelow. His chair is precisely wbelow it was. The oven is the very same, the table, the image on the wall, the see out of the home window – all utterly identical. But tbelow is no male.


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The Pompidou museum’s Magritte exhibition, The Tfactor of Imeras. Photograph: Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty ImagesWhat does it mean? Magritte belonged to the surrealist motion, however its intellectual hero Sigmund Freud is not much aid expertise this (for it’s not about sex). Nor are the sentipsychological worths we often bring to art of any use. A modern-day installation in which someone vanimelted could well be construed as a work-related of “mourning”, a photo of loss and death: yet we instinctively know this paint is not mournful or sad. That’s bereason the man is portrayed without a shred of empathy. He looks a nonentity. His disappearance is not that huge a deal.


Perhaps that is component of Magritte’s point. We exist, and also then we don’t. The human being will be tright here once we are gone. The dull factuality of physical points does not require huguy perception to make it persist. Thinking about this through Magritte’s eyes becomes terrifying: that as soon as you leave your house and lock the door all the objects in it still exist, unconcious as they are, without any must be well-known, to be seen, by a aware huguy.

That’s one eerie method of looking at it, but tbelow is no simple means to “decode” a Magritte paint. His art placidly and also calmly asks terrifying inquiries about the solid things we take for granted.

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You recognize nopoint, smiles the bowler-hatted magician, as he pulls away the rug from under your feet to expose there’s no floor, either. And that’s not even a pipe you’re holding in your hand.


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