Rene Magritte is one of the most influential surrealist painters of our time. His unique style involved using everyday objects to explore abstract ideas. A Freudian dream-like effect is always seen in his paintings and this makes the work seem bizarre and baffling. However, it is through these puzzling twists that Magritte communicates his philosophies. Thus, appreciating a Magritte painting not only teaches you about art, but also about a unique way of looking at reality. To help you get a taste of his eccentric genius, we’ve analyzed two famous paintings of his. Enjoy!
Magritte enjoys putting an eccentric spin on everyday objects and situations and we get to see this interplay, between the regular and the extraordinary, in his painting titled ‘The Lovers.’ By introducing an element of bizarreness, Magritte forces us to focus our attention on the mundane, thereby causing us to notice and question things we didn’t before. This painting showcases a scene we’ve seen a million times, of two lovers locking lips. But, Magritte presents this all too familiar scene with an unsettling twist; he shrouds the faces of the lovers with a cloth.
The best part about Magritte’s paintings is the countless explanations they evoke. This painting too makes you wonder about the meaning behind it. Does it give a nod towards the famous adage ‘Love is blind?’ Or, does it point towards something more unsettling, a trend that has become common in today’s technology driven age, where screen-to-screen conversations replace face-to-face ones; that of being completely clueless about the actual identity and personality of the person we are corresponding with. Some have also interpreted this painting as depicting sexual frustration. The man and the women engage in the intimate act of kissing, but what they taste is not their lover’s passion, but the vapid taste of dry cloth. Aloofness and the absence of desire are symbolized by shrouded faces that mask not just identities, but feelings too.
So, what is your interpretation of the painting?
Magritte was a master of de-familiarizing the familiar, and here’s another painting that does this beautifully. To begin with, he choose to depict an ordinary subject, business men, dressed in dark coats and bowler hats. The structure behind his falling/flying/floating men has a severely linear construction. No fancy embellishments decorate it; the colors too are uninspiring. Stark, bleak regular, that’s the impression Magritte is trying to create. Then, he destroys this illusion by painting these seemingly identical men floating mid-air, in hexagonal patterns. The men are arranged in multiple grids that recede into the background, beyond the building, perhaps into infinity. So, what is this painting trying to represent?
Based on his previous works, here are some conclusions we can draw. By painting these men mid-air, Magritte is again drawing attention to his favorite trope – the falsity of images. The men aren’t real men but representations of them. Therefore, they can be painted in anyway, including in this dream-like, buoyant manner. The painting can also be looked at as a silent critique on capitalism, the economic model that has often been accused of inspiring feelings of greed in man. This causes man to spend his entire existence in the pursuit of wealth, slogging away at mundane jobs and in the process, completely losing his identity and individuality. When the men in the painting are looked at from afar, they all look identical. Their mannequin-like faces stare straight ahead and are devoid of any kind of expression. The endless repetitions symbolize monotony and loss of individuality. On examining the painting further, we start to notice the differences in these men. They do have different faces and are even carrying different objects. But, these difference are lost in the symmetry and similarity and all they look like are Anonymous bourgeois businessmen.
Also, the name comes from the ancient Indian city ‘Golkonda,’ once considered to be one of the wealthiest cities in India. Interesting, isn’t it?