René Magritte (1898-1967)
Magritte, born in Belgium, was a surrealist, but even more an artist of wit who played with the notions of perception and reality. Many of his images have become famous on book covers, record albums, posters, and other forms, maybe none more so than this one:
The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe)
It seems to be a self-contradictory statement, but it’s actually a philosophical one: the picture is a painting of a pipe, not the actual thing. It’s a playful statement on the nature of reality, as is most of his work. If an image is not a real thing, can we ever know what reality actually is?
This is one of my favorites:
Not to Be Reproduced
Is it about the impossibility of self-knowledge? Or of complete knowledge of another? Is it an individual hiding from himself? Or is it nothing at all except a reversal of the common mirror scene? Interestingly enough, this painting was commissioned as a portrait!
Here are some more examples of Magritte’s wit and subversion of reality:
The Empire of Light