We are all familiar with the stages of our wondrous dreams, floating above and behind reality. Connecting with otherworldly and practical things in the quiet of our sleep.
We find hidden meanings and feelings that resonate with our life and the person that we are. And a person who paints or creates art with such loose and strong threads with likewise subjects is known as a surrealist.
What is Surrealism
Surrealism as a concept came into being in the 1920s. A cultural movement associated with art and writings that sought to re-establish the connections between dream and reality, and the world and our minds. Such artists paint scenes and paintings, which are ‘weird’, or ‘thought-provoking’ for others, creating hyper-realistic conceptual scenes from everyday art.
Today as well, surrealism flourishes with thousands of surreal photographers and artists trying to make a mark in the field with their out of the box visions and creations.
Artists today credit such success of the movement to a variety of previous painters and artists, but one name that stands out is René François Ghislain Magritte. Known as René Magritte, she’s a painter who largely influenced the theme of surreal art into today’s pop, minimalist and conceptual art.
René Magritte: The Man Who Made “The Picture Of The Pipe”
Magritte was born in Lessines, Belgium, on November 21, 1898. His father was a manufacturer, which provided his family with a comfortable life.[*]
Yet they were not completely susceptible to financial problems, which led to them moving around a lot. A tragedy struck Magritte’s life when in 1912, his mother committed suicide by drowning in a river.
Thus Magritte tried seeking solace in books, films, and paintings. He graduated from an art school in Brussels. After his yearly military training, he got married and worked in commercial advertising to earn a livelihood while he experimented with his painting.
By the mid-1920s he began to paint in the surrealist style and became known for his art. This allowed him to take up his thought-provoking art full time.
The Treachery of Images (The Treason of Images)
A beautifully clear painting of a pipe, upon a clear background, with the words “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.”, French for “This is not a pipe,” underneath it. This makes one wonder, right? Why is this not a pipe? What is this treachery?
When asked to speak upon his very famous painting, he replied, “The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture ‘This is a pipe’, I’d have been lying!”
So, the map is not the territory, and the word is not the thought. A picture of a pipe is not a pipe. Makes amazing sense when one finally gets the not so simple idea behind the seemingly simple image.
The treason of images continues to be one of the most celebrated works of art in the modern world. It is currently on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The treason of images has widely appeared in pop culture references, such as the book ‘The Forbidden Game’ by L.J. Smith, and the movie ‘The fault in our stars’.
The Lovers, 1928
“The lovers” is another famous and widely discussed painting by Magritte. The enigmatic drawing of two lovers kissing with opaque clothes completely covering their faces is something that has been theorized by different people in different interpretations.
Some say, that the picture represents the loneliness of two people. Embraced in such intimacy and still not completely intimate. While others say that the picture represents the opposites of company and loneliness.
The cloth around the protagonists’ faces is also said to have influenced by Magritte’s mother’s suicide. While her body was dragged out of the water her wet nightgown covered her face.
However, Magritte has denied any such interpretations, calling a mystery to have no meaning, for that is the purpose of a mystery, to be unknown.
One of the interpretations that are also widely believed is the fact that no one shows their true side to anyone, even to their intimate lovers or counterparts. The painting currently sits in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA.
Magritte died of pancreatic cancer on 15 August 1967, aged 68. A museum to his name was opened in Brussels on 30th May 2009 and is called The Magritte Museum.
The place displays some 200 original Magritte paintings, drawings, and sculptures including The Return, Scheherazade, and The Empire of Lights.
It is known to be the biggest Magritte archive to exist and also contains his experiments with photography from 1920 on and the short surrealist films he made from 1956 onward.