Centre Pompidou, the contemporary art hub in Paris, has recently attracted a plethora of admirers of the great master of surrealism, the Belgian artist René Magritte. Over 100 pieces are presented from the artist’s first exhibition (1927): peintre de la pensée abstraite (painter of abstract thinking) till the year he deceased (1967). The exposition ‘Magritte. La Trahison Des Images’ (‘Magritte. The rebel of images’ in English) gives the public a chance to have a glimpse of the maestro’s aesthetic world.
The exhibition hall is divided into 5 separate rooms to introduce the unique aesthetic vision of René Magritte. Room 1: portrait de Magritte en philosophe, shows the overall artistic ambition of Magritte.He challenged traditional philosophies of painting and pushed the audience to recognize the relations between paintings and reality.
His representative work <Trahison Des Images> satirized those who claimed they understood his works and vision. In the same year, he published in La Révolution Surréaliste where he expressed his ideas about practicing words in the images. This demonstration form is omnipresent in Magritte’s works. Well put lines and drawing figures with precise calculations are also the signatures of René Magritte.
The sensational phrase ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ (‘This is not a pipe’ in English) on a painting portraying a pipe is the typical piece in Room 2: les mots et les images. The contradiction of words and images, derived from the Bible, makes Magritte’s work an art statement that delivers powerful messages. Much like a jeu de mots (play on words) which inspires reverse thinking.
“I’m often asked what my painting conceals. Nothing! I paint visible images which evoke something that is incomprehensible.”
— René Magritte
In the Room 3: l’invention de la peinture, you can discover 3 indispensable elements in Magritte’s paintings: candle, shadow and silhouette. His pieces explore the question if paintings can reproduce reality. He drew inspiration from ordinary objects from daily life and fused his ideas into those familiar figures. Experimenting with surrealism, Magritte’s works depicted the ‘impossible’. Audiences are treated with a revolutionary visual feast. If you believe dreams are a reflection of reality, then in Magritte’s work, it can work both ways.
Room 4: allégorie de la caverne takes the Platonic allegory to the heart. The allegory criticizes those prisoners in the cave who still hold on to the deceived life after knowing the truth. Applying metaphors such as fire, caves or enclosed space, Magritte interrogated traditional philosophy on its hasty judgment, of the relationship between images and truth in his works.
In common with other works of René Magritte, he tried to evoke public attention on the status of art works and perceived reality. Although Magritte imbedded a rebellious spirit in each of his pieces, he still embraced the Greek definition of art: to imitate nature. He insisted painting not merely an aesthetical creation but also a way to visualize thoughts.
Room 5: rideaux et trompe-l’oeil/ la beauté composite is comprised of two parts. The Rideaux et trompe-l’oeil section showed Magritte’s passion of representing the effect of trompe-l’oeil (realistic imagery) which leads the eyes to fail to recognize which is still life and which is curtain. Curtains can both hide and reveal. Under Magritte’s brush, curtains, like walls and canvas, are the screens between eyes and the world. This adds dramatic touch to his works.
“I could see the world as if it were a curtain in front of my eyes.”
— René Magritte
Magritte’s pursuit of fragmented beauty and digression from classic harmonic beauty is clear to see in the la beauté composite section. The absolute rupture from the standard conceptions of beauty is presented through a series of collages using women’s body parts. This typical surrealist statement believes no total perfection exists and shakes the rein of traditional philosophies of beauty.
On the walls of the Room 1, it writes repeatedly in French ‘the problem of lights’, ’the problem of mountains’, ‘the problem of women’, ‘the problem of rain’, ‘the problem of chairs’, ‘the problem of shoes’…… <Problems> is the first work Magritte presented. Lights, mountains, women, rain, chairs, shoes…… are the subjects in his paintings. These all serve as the medium of which René Magritte has tried to express to the audience: what you believe at first sight from the paintings are not true. He upheld his condemnation against the traditional false nature of painting through out his career.
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Special thanks to Centre Pompidou for press materials.
Visit the Centre Pompidou at Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France.