~ René Magritte
|Ceci n'est pas une pipe (this is not a pipe), René Magritte 1929|
Property of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California
Now, 48 years later, MoMA has another Magritte exhibition. Titled "The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938", it chronicles the years when Magritte and his fellow surrealists were developing their ideas about art. When I went to this show (twice so far), I only giggled a few times — I've become one of the serious adults, apparently — but I learned much I hadn't known.
"Everything tends to make one think there is little relation between an object and that which represents it."
~ René Magritte
|Clairvoyance, René Magritte, 1928|
Property of Mr. & Mrs. Wilbur Ross
Magritte was fascinated with the difference between a word and what it represents, and a painting and what it represents. He said, "An object is not so possessed of its name that one cannot find for it another which suits it better."
One of the explanatory placards at the museum quotes his 1938 lecture "La Ligne de vie" ("Lifeline"): "The titles of paintings were chosen in such a way as to inspire in the spectator an appropriate mistrust of any mediocre tendency to facile self-assurance."
The two paintings below make his point insistently. In the painting at left, "The Key to Dreams" (1930), each object is given the name of something else. An egg is an acacia, a shoe is the moon, a bowler hat is snow, a candle is a ceiling, a drinking glass is a storm and a hammer is a desert. In the painting at right, "The Key to Dreams" (1935), which was created in preparation for his first gallery show in the U.S., he used English labels for the same, intentionally disorienting effect.
|Key to Dreams, René Magritte, 1930|
|Key to Dreams, René Magritte, 1935|
|The Human Condition, René Magritte, 1933|
Property of National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
One final painting from MoMA delivers the meaning of this quote to me: "The Surreal is but reality that has not been disconnected from its mystery."
|(Not to be reproduced), René Magritte, 1937|
Property of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
|His pipe and passport|
To learn more about the MoMA exhibition "The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-38", visit MoMA.org
To learn more about René Magritte, see: