René Magritte @ Pompidou

Living in Le Marais, I am fortunate enough to place Pompidou as a stable on my hang-out list. It is one of the largest contemporary art museums in the world, housing approximately 50,000 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, drawings and photography by Picasso, Klein, Warhol and Pollock among many others. From September 21st to January 23rd, there is the “Magritte. La Trahison des Images” (The Treachery of Images) exhibition showcasing numerous pieces by the Belgium surrealist artist.

La Trahison des Images (The Treachery of Images), 1928-29

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This is one of the most well-known paintings by Magritte. People initially did not understand it as the caption seemed to contradict the painting. However, further studies suggested that “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (This is not a pipe) simply means that the painting itself is not pipe. This mirrors the remark made by Polish-American philosopher Alfred Korzybski, “The map is not the territory”, which means that “an abstraction derived from something, or a reaction to it, is not the thing itself.”

La Décalcomanie, 1966

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Magritte painted a series of images of men with bowler hats and/or silhouettes of them with a nature scene painted within. I enjoyed this painting in particular because being a surrealist painting, all the elements are actually present in reality. Yet it is highly imaginative, presenting countless plausible interpretations. I didn’t really grasp the message of the painting but it did teach me one thing: Think outside the box.

La Main Heureuse (The Happy Hand), 1957

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I learned to play the piano when I was younger and at different points of my life, it gave me great pleasure. So it was interesting to see how Magritte associated the piano with the engagement ring in a painting called The Happy Hand. I guess with music and love, anyone would be happy, wouldn’t they?

La Magie Noire (Black Magic), 1945

Magritte went through a “Renoir” phase and painted abundance images of women. The model for this series was the artist’s wife, Georgette Berger. In this beautiful piece, the upper torso gradually blends with the tone of the blue sky while the other half stays grounded with her hands resting on the rock – half celestial and half earthly.

Le Viol (Rape), 1945

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When Magritte was a teenager, his mother died from drowning. When the body was discovered, her face was covered with her dress and her body was exposed. That image was deeply imprinted in the mind of a young Magritte which is reflected in many of his works. For example, in this painting, the woman’s facial features are replaced by the torso, suggesting the way how his mother died. Additionally, it indicates the way males see women, and how the female image tends to be highly sexualized and objectified.

Les Grands Rendez-vous (High-level Meetings), 1947

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This facial image of the Persian queen, Shéhérazade, a legendary queen and the storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights, is repeated in several other paintings. In this painting, the face of the enchanting queen is paired with a mysterious cave and symbols regularly seen in his works, bird, wine glass, key, and pipe.

La Folie des Grandeurs (Delusions of Grandeur), 1967

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This is a bronze sculpture with golden brown patina, composed of three hollow parts of a woman’s body stacked into each other like a set of Russian dolls. Magritte created a number of three-dimensional pieces in his days, almost all inspired by his own paintings.

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