Magritte was a Surrealist whose work features wit, irony and the juxtaposition of images to startle and amuse the viewer. Unlike other Surrealists,
Magritte did not rely on subconscious expression in his work. His work relies on the constant interplay between the relationship
of images and words to question perceived reality. Like other Surrealist works, the Belgian artist’s works call into
question the ability of the mind to rationally discern seriousness from humor or reason from chaos. Magritte is probably most
known for his series of paintings of a faceless, nameless man in a bowler hat, as well as a series of paintings of a man’s smoking pipe with the words “Ceci n’est pas une pipe [This is not a pipe.].” The titles of his paintings are usually as elusive and dumbfounding as his paintings and serve
to confound the viewer.
in his life, Magritte commissioned eight of his paintings to be reproduced in the three dimensional bronze form. In 1967 Magritte
chose the paintings that were to be transposed. The models of the sculptures were cast in wax and Magritte approved and signed
the works to be completed in bronze. Unfortunately, the artist died before the sculptures were completed. The inspiration
for this sculpture, The Labors of Alexander, was originally painted in 1950. The image of the felled tree had been
used in several of Magritte’s paintings. This image, like most of the artist’s works, questions the common sense
of the viewer. A tree has recently been cut and the ax is now secured underneath the root of the tree stump. Who could have
chopped down the tree? Where are they now? Could the tree be responsible for its own demise? How did the ax get under the
tree root? These questions are, of course, left unanswered.
Magritte in popular culture:
For the 1973 movie The Excorist, the poster image and important scene where Father Merrin arrives at the MacNeil house was inspired by Magritte's 1954
painting L'Empire des lumières (Empire of Light).
- In the UK TV series Sapphire & Steel, (in the untitled fourth serial), the appearance of the faceless spirit, and of the photos he hides inside, are based on
- Metalcore band Recover titled their 2002 album "Ceci n'est pas." The album cover features a picture of the band on a background similar to The Treachery of Images; "Ceci n'est pas Recover" is written under the picture in a font similar to that of the painting.
- On the set of the television show Good Eats, there is a painting over a fireplace of a turkey floating in front of a sky background with a bowler hat floating above
it, an obvious reference to Magritte's painting "The Son of Man".
What was going on the world when this sculpture was created?
Pop artists turn
to popular culture for artistic inspiration
1967 Magritte dies before seeing his completed
1970 Robert Smithson creates Spiral Jetty, an environmental artwork on the Great Salt Lake.
1961 1,400 Cuban exiles land in Bay of Pigs in an attempt to overthrow Castro
1961 Construction of the Berlin Wall begins in East Germany
1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers “I have a dream...” speech at Lincoln Memorial
1963 Pres. J. F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas
Much information on this site courtesy of the New Orleans Museum of Art.